Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Doobie Brothers, Santana

So as it turns out, this time I might have been the least grumpy guy in the stadium! Sit down, let me tell you all about it.

I bought these tickets awhile back because for some reason, out of all the shows at the Jones Beach Theater this summer, this was the one that most interested me. (I considered a couple of others, including Bush/Live and Smashing Pumpkins/Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, but this was always my first choice.)

I won't necessarily say Santana is one of my top favorite bands. After all, in a way, Santana has been many different bands over many different time periods. But they were one of my earliest loves, and from time to time, although I never saw them live (until now), I would drift back towards them when they were making the right kind of music.

I've written before about the development of my love of music, and how the late '60s helped to shape my tastes for years to come. I've also written about how important FM radio was in the '70s. But I don't know if I've stressed how important AM radio was in the late '60s.

My first radio station was WABC in New York, the home of DJs such as Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, Harry Harrison, and "Cousin Brucie" (Bruce Morrow). And in the years surrounding Woodstock, yes, they still played a lot of crap. However, they also started playing a lot of great stuff. Along with pop fluff artists like B.J. Thomas and R.B. Grieves, some of the older British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson, we started getting songs from future FM stars like "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, and "We're Not Gonna Take It" by The Who. And mixed in with all of this were several of Santana's earliest hits, including "Evil Ways", "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va". "Black Magic Woman" was particularly potent -- dark and cool, it put a psychedelic Latin beat twist on a song that was actually written by blues rock artist Peter Green of the original Fleetwood Mac.

I owned both Santana's eponymous album (which contained the studio version of one of the highlights of the Woodstock festival, "Soul Sacrifice") and Abraxis (which featured both "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va"), and I loved them both (and still do). Then Santana started moving more into the genre of jazz fusion, and I wandered off into different musical pastures. I came back in 1994 (as did the rest of the world) when they released the first-rate Supernatural album, and I remember talking about how great it was that an artist like Santana could hang on and just keep doing their thing until musical tastes changed and they became "cool" again. I didn't really think much about them again 2016, when they released Santana IV, which might not have been at the same level as either first two albums or Supernatural, but was still pretty damned good.

This January, I picked up a copy of a new Santana EP, In Search of Mona Lisa, and (SPOILER:) there's a very good chance that the first song on that effort, "Do You Remember Me", is going to make my Top 20 Songs of 2019 list. I was a little disappointed in their newest full-length album, Africa Speaks, but it has a couple of decent songs on it, and frankly, by the time it came out, I already knew I was going to Jones Beach to see them. The fact that The Doobie Brothers, a band that I like more than love, was going to be their opening act, was just a sweetener for me.

After The Alarm show with Denise on Friday night, I basically took a day of rest on Saturday. (Well, not really -- I was home working most of the day. But I wasn't running around doing stuff, so at least my body was resting.)

I got up pretty late on Sunday. (I had actually been up a good part of Saturday night doing my Alarm write up.) I spent the afternoon doing a few light work items, and keeping a wary eye on the weather -- there was a 20% chance of rain, or so they told me. I left the house at 5PM, but by the time I got some gas, bought myself a sandwich and hit the ATM, it was close to 5:30 by the time I really got underway.

The skies looked kind of threatening as I drove toward Wantagh. I decided to take Ocean Parkway, since that's the fastest route, even though it contains another of my Achilles Heals -- bridges!

I've written on the blog before about my fear of heights, but I've never talked about my fear of bridges. Some of it is about the height. But for whatever reason, I also always have these nightmares about bridges. Usually, I'm driving on them, but as I get more than halfway across, I find that the water level has risen until I'm driving through water, trying to desperately make it to the other side before my car is immersed. I'm sure Sigmund Freud would have a party with these dreams. Well eff you, cigar boy!

(As you can imagine, my kids love torturing me about this. Whenever we're driving over a bridge, they love to say stuff like, "Uh oh, it feels like it's shaking," and "Oh no, the bridge is collapsing." I'll admit I play the fear up a little more than I actually feel it. I like to see my kinds enjoy themselves.)

I especially don't like the Robert Moses bridge. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one, I had a flat on this bridge during evening rush hour about 20 years ago, when it was only one lane due to bridge work, and I had to limp my way all the way across to the other side to avoid causing a three-hour traffic tie-up. But the other reason is that this bridge is really two bridges, one going each way. And the side going towards Jones Beach in only two lanes wide, meaning there is no middle lane to drive in -- whichever way you choose, you're way to close to the side (and that long drop to the water) for my comfort.

When I do take this route, I'm usually gripping the steering wheel much more tightly than I probably should. even on a good day. And Sunday, as I made my way towards Santanaville, I found out that it was quite windy out -- I had to really fight the steering wheel to keep from flying all over the bridge.

In any event, I made it, and starting heading down Ocean Parkway towards Jones Beach. Because Denise doesn't have much interest in most '70s bands, my companion for this show was my good friend Rich Da Drumma, aka the drummer from my wife's old band The Slant. Rich had texted me that he was already in the parking lot of the stadium just as I was leaving Patchogue. I promised to let him know when I reached the parking lot as well.

I wasn't actually expecting a huge crowd for this show. However, as I got closer to the beach (at maybe 6:10 or so) I received an unwanted surprise. The crowd was already so large that they claimed that Field 5 was full, and all traffic was being diverted to Field 4.

Now how far and how long I can walk vary greatly from day to day. I have back issues and leg issues, so if I'm having a bad day, I can only walk so far. (And if it's the winter, and there's any ice or snow on the ground, I can't walk far at all -- if I go down on the ice, even if I don't injure myself, it's going to take a crane to get me back up again.) Luckily, I was feeling pretty good on this day, so it was more of an annoyance than an issue to panic over.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I did show my handicapped sticker, but as I feared, I was told that all of the handicapped parking was taken. OK then. So I parked in a spot that was roughly equidistant between my house and the stadium.

Rich wanted me to meet him by the front gate, so I started walking over. It wouldn't have been too bad, except that a lot of it was uphill, so it was a bit of a struggle. As I (and a bunch of other people) trudged over the overpass, I could see that they'd lied to me -- Field 5 really wasn't full. Yes, it was largely full. But there were quite a few spots in the outer part of the parking lot. It still would have been a goodly walk, but at least I wouldn't have had to go up the hill to go over the overpass. Grrr!

I waited by the gate for a few minutes, but I didn't see Rich. Unfortunately, the long drive and the trek from Field 4 were taking their toll, and I had to pee something fierce. Finally, I texted Rich and told him I'd meet him at the seat. I then went through the process of waiting on line to slowly work my way through the metal detector.

Once inside, I walked past some stadium employees who were hawking some $25 ticket deals for some of the upcoming shows. The one band I heard mentioned was ZZ Top. (So if you're a fan of theirs, you might want to check around to see if you can get in on this.)

When I was finished with the Men's Room, I got another nasty surprise. The line for the elevator was huge. I contemplated trying to walk up the stairs. But my seats were on the top level, and especially after the long walk from the parking lot, I knew I'd get part way up and realize I had made a mistake. So I waited. And waited. And watched as several times, they made all the handicapped and elderly people wait while a couple of employees used one of the elevators to transport metal carts full of bags of ice. I hate Jones Beach.

Finally, I got up to top level, and found my way to my seat. I was in a handicapped section on the left side of the stadium, right were I was last year for the Tesla/Styx/Joan Jett show. Just as the usher was setting up one of those cushioned folding chairs for me, Rich showed up, and was seated next to me. At this point, it was about 6:50, about ten minutes until showtime.

Now a couple of words about the weather. I had grabbed an umbrella before I left the house, and because I couldn't find a rain poncho, I'd also grabbed a jacket with a hood. I figured I'd be hot, but at least I'd have some protection if it rained.

As it turned out, it was a good thing I'd taken the jacket, and not because of rain. As I'd learned back on the Robert Moses Bridge, it was quite windy, and actually a little bit cold. In fact, it was windy enough that at the beginning of the night, because the tide was high, they had to have guys with long brooms over on the left side of the stadium on the ground level to sweep the water away from the seated area.

Rich was a bit surprised at how high up we were. The last time he had been at this stadium, the whole upper tier hadn't been there. (We also talked a little about how the area directly in front of the stage actually used to be a moat.) He wasn't even sure if he'd last been there for a concert, or if it was when the stadium was still featuring Broadway-style musicals. I pointed out how the height of the stadium meant "Nearer my God to thee," but Rich seemed oddly uncomforted by this remark.

A moment later, the crowd stirred, and a whole bunch of two-inch-tall looking Doobie Brothers took the stage. There seemed to be about seven of them, and I made a comment to Rich about hiring a matchmaker to find Seven Brides for Seven Doobie Brothers. This earned me a gentle shot in the ribs from him. (And I do mean earned). They opened up with a pair of their hits, "Rockin' Down the Highway" and "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)". As they continued playing, I re-counted and found their were actually eight of them. (But of course, this didn't stop me from blogging my painful joke.)

Rich looked very happy, and commented on how the Doobie Brothers were in his soul (along with ELO, whom he'd just seen live in Jersey a few weeks ago.) For my part, I felt a little distracted. This could have been because the Doobies went into three or four songs in a row that I wasn't familiar with. But I think I was just winded from the walk over, and a little disoriented watching the storm clouds on my right side and watching the stadium fill up. I did mention to Rich, though, that I thought the sound was pretty good. (Last year, the sound for Tesla and Joan Jett had been fine, but the sound for Styx had been terrible.) I was also in a pleasant, if spacey, state of mind, just looking up at the sky and out at the water, thinking about how great it was to listen to live music under the open sky. I love Jones Beach.

I got more into The Doobie Brothers as their set wore on, and especially enjoyed their encore, which consisted of "Old Black Water" and "Listen to the Music." By this time, it was starting to get dark (so you could actually see the band on the big screens on either side of the stage), and the stadium was pretty full. The Doobies played a full 13-song set, in all.

The wait wasn't too bad between bands. In the handicap section in this stadium, they kind of brick you in. By which I mean after they fill the first row of seats, they set up a second row behind you, so that you can't get out without making somebody behind you move. So I decided that I didn't need to use the rest room. (Which was probably just as well, as I heard from some of the people in my row that it was a zoo during the intermission. I managed to step out briefly about midway through Santana's set when they were playing a song I didn't know, and the people behind me had temporarily vacated, and there was still a line.)

Santana came out with an even larger band than The Doobie Brothers. (They had an intro film that featured various scenes from Woodstock.) They opened up with two of their best, "Soul Sacrifice" and "Jin-go-lo-ba", and I was immediately into it. The two main things I love about them are their percussion (and tonight, they had three percussionists), and Carlos Santana's ridiculously tasteful guitar.

Just a word about Carlos Santana -- The Doobies may have appeared to be two inches from our seats on Mount Olympus, but somehow Carlos Santana is always 10 feet tall. He's got that iconic look, with the brimmed hat. And although my first love is usually keyboards and synths, Santana is one of those guitarists whose style is distinctive and elegant enough to draw my attention every time. (I feel this way about David Gilmour, too.) He's also one of the few guys who can write and play songs about himself, and somehow it's cool and not douchey.

By this time, it looked like the storm clouds were blowing away (and that's how it worked out. We never really did get hit by the rain.)

Now there some negatives to their set, two in particular. The first were the lights. This was one of those shows where for large portions of the night, bright, white lights were shined directly into the crowd. They were really mainly in two sections, one on one side of the stadium and one on the other. But unfortunately, ours was one of them. Before I could even comment or react, I heard Rich mutter irritably, "What are they trying to hide?" And I couldn't argue with him. On the stage, Carlos was killing it with a guitar solo, but we couldn't see anything but a glimpse of him. And it wasn't just us. Most of the people in our section had their hands up in front of their eyes, trying to block out the glare. (At one point, I turned to the woman sitting next me who was sitting with her hands in front of her eyes, and told her, "You know, when they shine the light on you like that, you're supposed to take a solo." See laughed and agreed, before passing it along to her husband.) And they had these lights on us for parts of almost every song. Bad light man! Bad!

The other negative was the vocalists. Unlike most bands, Santana is mostly about Santana, and the vocalists are of secondary importance. I didn't really love the vocals on Africa Speaks, and I found the vocalists in the live band on Sunday night to too often be strident.

The band was also loud, much louder than the Doobies had been. This didn't bother me as much as it bothered Rich.

In spite of these shortcomings, I enjoyed the show a lot. It might have been a little overlong -- overall, between the two bands, they played for a full four hours -- but they did most of the songs I could have asked for, including "Black Magic Woman," "Evil Ways", four songs from Supernatural (including my favorite, "Maria, Maria", and even my favorite track from the new LP, "Breaking Down the Door". Because it was the last night of their tour together, Santana also had The Doobies come out and join them for a cover of "Some Kind of Wonderful".

The show was also something of a family affair, as at one point, Carlos' son Salvador was given a long keyboard solo, and his wife Cindy was given a long drum solo. Both certainly held their own.

At the end of the night, there was more Woodstock imagery projected onto the screens, and the band closed the show with a cover of The Youngbloods' "Get Together".

Rich and I took the stairs leaving the stadium (as I'm pretty sure I'd have still been there for Thursday night's Bush/Live concert if I'd have waited for the elevators.) I hacked my way into the Men's Room on the main level (which was all congested because there's only one door for the people entering and the people exiting to both try to squeeze their way through -- nice design, guys.) I then began the long, torturous walk back to Field 4 to find my car.

Earlier in the night, when we were making plans to meet up later, Rich asked me what road I usually take when I leave the stadium. I told him truthfully, I never have any idea. I just go out whichever way opens up -- sometimes it's closer to Ocean Parkway, sometimes to the Wantagh Parkway, and sometimes to the Meadowbrook. It took twenty minutes or so to get out of the parking lot, and this time I found myself on the Meadowbrook.

I met up with Rich at a diner on Sunrise Highway in Wantagh, where we ate dinner and compared notes. As I had suspected, Rich had enjoyed The Doobie Brothers more than Santana. He was already under the weather when he got to the stadium, and the combination of the cold, the bright lights and the loud volume for Santana's set had been too much of an assault to his senses, to the point where he actually felt shaky going down the stairs. (I hadn't noticed because I'd been involved with trying not to fall down the stairs and kill myself.) He loved The Doobies, though.

Rich also emailed me today to tell me 1) our friends George and Cathy had been there, and had texted him that they had been freezing, and 2) that a co-worker's parents had been there, had also been blinded by the lights, and had had to park so far away that they had missed almost the whole Doobie Brothers set. So for once, compared to much of the crowd, it seems I was Mr. Happy. (I will point out, though, that during the whole evening, unlike Thursday's Roger Silverberg show, not one person in the whole stadium handed me a zeppola. What have you got to say for yourself, Carlos?)

For me, I'd always rather be a little cold than a little hot (although I was really glad I had thought to bring my jacket). And I love Santana, and in spite of the harsh vocals, I really enjoyed seeing them live. The Doobies were nice, but Santana was king. In any event, whichever band you like more, between the two of them, it looked as though they must have sold every single seat in that stadium. Pretty impressive, guys.

So that wrapped up my weekend trifecta of music.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel, Modern English, The Alarm

Having been up pretty late Thursday night writing about the Roger Silverberg show, I took a fairly mellow day yesterday. I got up late, and knocked out a couple of kids' notes for my job. Then, Denise and I headed into Huntington.

We arrived at about 6PM, and found parking right away (for once.) Then we hooked up with Mandy and Tim from Denise's WLIR Facebook group for dinner at Meehan's, a place right across the street from the Paramount. We chatted mostly about music: past shows (including last year's Gary Numan show, which Tim and I agreed had been the most pleasant surprises of the year); tonight's show, which we were all looking forward to; and future shows, which included Saturday's Squeeze show in the city, which Mandy and Tim will be attending, and Sunday's Santana/Doobie Brothers show at Jones Beach, which I'm going to with Rich Da Drumma.

After dinner (which for me was a delicious cheeseburger on a pretzel bun), we headed briefly over by the bar, where Anne Marie and Tom from the Facebook group were hanging, and the whole lot of us strolled across the street to the theater.

Anne Marie and Tom were down on the floor, so we didn't see them again. Mandy and Tim had tickets upstairs two rows in front of us, but they headed down to the floor for the first two sets, to catch the action up close. Denise and I went straight up to our seats, which were in the back middle section. We had seats on the right aisle in the third row. And because this wasn't too expensive a show, Denise bought us the extra seat for this one, so we had a seat in between us.

I had printed out the setlists from setlist.fm, and except for one song by Gene Loves Jezebel, they turned out to be entirely accurate. (This makes life easy for me, as I can just check off the songs as they play them, and enter them later on setlist.fm if no one else already has.)

Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel was up first. I was pretty psyched to see them, as they were the only band on the bill I hadn't seen previously. So first, I have to tell you the story of how they became Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel.

It seems the band was first formed in 1980 as a project of two identical twin brothers, Jay and Michael Aston. This was news to me, as the two Gene Loves Jezebel songs I knew best, "Motion of Love" and "Desire", both made me believe that the lead vocalist of the band was a woman. (Denise was surprised that I'd thought this, but the Aston's brothers' voices are just high enough that they sound to me as though they could have been sung by a high-voiced man, or a low-voiced woman.)

So these two twin brothers formed this band. They had a series of modest hits. At some point, the two brothers each went solo, then reunited the band in the early '90s (and even shared a house together), until things started to get a little hinky. They went out on a tour together in 1997, and these two identical twin brothers had a falling out. They were in the middle of recording an album together, but Jay and the other guys even removed Michael's vocals before releasing the album. You can see where this is going, right?

At some point, Michael puts together his own version of the band, tours America, and calls it Gene Loves Jezebel. Jay sues him for the name. And eventually, they work out a deal in court -- Jay's band can call itself "Gene Loves Jezebel" in the UK, but has to use the name "Jay Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel" in the US; and Michael Aston's band can call itself "Gene Loves Jezebel" in the US, can only refer to themselves as "Michael Aston's Gene Loves Jezebel" in the UK. And I can't emphasize enough that the two guys who can't get along here are identical twin brothers! I mean, it's bad enough when the guys from Yes or Styx or Asia fight among themselves and split into two different units. But these two nitwits have the same genes! This is why humankind is doomed.

Anyway, I was still looking forward to seeing them, and so was Denise. At 8PM, the lights went down, and some Welsh guy with a heavy accent came out and started blathering. I could only understand about every third word. Apparently, he's been buds with Mike Peters of The Alarm forever, and he's going to be the emcee for the evening. I would say the house was still only about a third full at that point. He babbled something, which was presumably an intro to the bands (although it could just have easily been something along the lines of, "You American hedgehogs will soon know the wrath of Wales!") And we were off.

Gene Loves Jezebel then took the stage. They played as a four-piece, in a basic guitar-bass-drums setup with Jay Aston on vocals. (Later in the set, Aston took up a second guitar.) Aston, wore a big, floppy hat. I think he wore it to shield his head a little, because in a recent blog entry, I suggested that should somebody smack his and his brother's heads together. Regardless, he sounded good, and seemed very happy to be there. I'm not really sure which of the Aston brothers sang lead vocals on which songs in the '80s, since Wikipedia lists them both as having been lead singers. But in any event, this is the voice I recognized from the records. (Of course, his identical twin brother probably has an identical voice.)

One side comment -- this guy has very skinny legs!

Anyway, they did a nice, albeit short (8-song), set. It included most of their best-known songs, such as "Motion of Love", "Jealous", "Heartache" and "Desire (Come and Get It)". They got a nice reaction from the WLIR-loving crowd, and seemed genuinely appreciative to receive such a nice reception. By the end of their set, the room was mostly full. (There were some empty seats in some of the side balconies, bit overall, it was a pretty big crowd.) So they got to play in front of quite a few people.

Gene Loves Jezebel's setlist is listed at www.makeupwithyourbrotheryoustupidskinnybastard.com.

In between sets, the room continued to fill out. Now a couple of words about the seats. The seats we were in felt a little tight, and the row didn't provide for much leg room. I thought maybe I'd just put on a few pounds since the last time I was there, which is still a possibility. But I also learned last night that the seats aren't all an equal width -- later in the night, we moved into the section to my right, and the seats were a little wider. (More on that move later.) But in any event, I was feeling a little squeezed, and was happy we'd purchased the extra seat for the night.

As people filed in, the people in the four seats in front on us took their places. Among them were a couple of about our age. And the husband must be the romantic sort, because he kept slipping his arm around his wife and banging his elbow into my leg. This was annoying. Low-level annoying, but still annoying. And right as Modern English was going on, the two women sitting to the left of Denise filed in. "You're late!" I growled in my mind, but OK, whatever. I stood up, and let them file past me. They lasted for five, maybe six songs, then filed out, making us get up again. Great. Seat gypsies!

The Marble-mouthed Welsh guy took the stage again, and muttered an intro of sorts. Modern English then took their place on the stage.

I've seen Modern English a few times over the last few years. They did a 3-song set on the Retro Futura Tour at Atlantic City in 2017, which I liked enough to buy their most recent album, 2017's Take Me to the Trees. (There are some decent songs on there, but overall, I thought it was pretty average.) Then Denise and I saw them again on the 2018 Retro Futura Tour at the Westbury Music Fair, where they played a 5-song set.

I'll be honest -- of the three bands, Modern English had the least to do with us buying tickets for this show. I hadn't seen The Alarm for 20 years, and I remember really liking them when I did see them. And as I mentioned, I'd never seen Gene Loves Jezebel (either rendition of them) before, which was extra sweetener enough for me to say, when Denise asked, "Yes, buy the tickets." Modern English didn't detract from me wanting to go to show. But they weren't that much of an inducement either, considering we'd seen them twice in the last few years.

Nevertheless, we hadn't seen them do a full set before, so I was curious to see what they'd bring to the table.

They took the stage as a six-piece, which seemed larger than I remember. (But when I looked up my 2018 review, I saw that they had played as a six-piece that night, too. So the memory is the first -- or tenth, or twelfth -- thing to go.)

They started out playing some of their '80s material, including songs like "Swans on Glass", "Someone's Calling" and "After the Snow". The band was tight, filling the hall with sound, and I started to just let the music carry me away. Then the lead singer, Robbie Gray, did something you should never do, which took me out of my happy place -- he started complaining to the crowd. Yes, people were more standing and gently swaying on the dance floor instead of dancing, etc., but my impression was that the crowd was enjoying it just fine. But Gray became flustered, because he obviously wasn't getting the kind of reaction he'd hoped for. He started waving his hands wildly for people to stand and/or move, and at one point between songs, he called out, "Is anyone alive in here?"

"We're into it," someone yelled from the back, obviously having the same reaction to Gray's entreaties that I was having.

Guys, if you're a lead singer, never do this. You're only going to get one of three reactions: 1. People will move more just because you nagged them. (And the New York area isn't famous for being a locale full of people pleasers); 2. The crowd will turn on you. Maybe you think this is better than indifference, but it's probably not. There are more of us than there is of you; or 3. The crowd will mostly ignore you and do their own thing anyway, which is how most of tonight's audience handled it. But complaining lessens the show for your audience. Instead of going home at the end of the night saying, "Modern English was pretty good tonight," they're going home saying, "What a whiny little bitch!"

Anyway, musically, the set was quite good. After a song or two, I got back into my peaceful head space (at least when the seat gypsies next to us weren't harshing my mellow). The band played ten songs, that included mostly older material along with a pair of songs from the Trees album. Then, Mr. Gray, resigned but a little chagrined, announced, "OK. It's time for us to play that song." The crowd erupted, and the band blasted into one of the most iconic tracks of the '80s, "I Melt With You."

I want to say, on one level I get it. You're out there night after night, busting your chops, even writing new material, but for 99% of the crowd, it's all about that one song. Maybe it's not even a song you thought twice about when you wrote it. I'm always hearing stories from artists about how their one big hit was something they wrote on the back of a cocktail napkin in about ten minutes, and it frustrates the heck out of them that their other hundred songs, many of which were carefully crafted, draw little more than indifference.

But there's another way to look at it. How great is it to have written even one song like that? And how many other musicians would cut off their left dumplings to have even written one song that means so much to so many people? How many '80s couples remember dancing to that song, maybe even making love for the first time to "I Melt With You"? I hang out all the time with local musicians who beat their brains out writing music for decades on end, some of which is actually damned good, and they're happy just to have a small room of people actually give their songs an hour or two of listening respect.

Be happy, Robbie Gray! You get to make a living making music. And no matter what else happens, you've at least got that one impactful number that brightened up a lot of people's lives, and no one can ever take that away from you. Maybe The Alarm gets a bigger overall reaction. But I'd argue that even The Alarm, great as they are, doesn't have any one single song that as recognizable as your big one.

Anyway, as expected, the crowd went crazy, and deservedly so, for Modern English's big closer. You'll find their full setlist for the night at www.stopgripingandjustsingyouannoyingbastard.com.

Now I was hoping that the irritating seat gypsies had gone to the dance floor for the rest of the night. It was obvious that The Alarm was the band they were there to see, as every time Colin Farrell, or Gavin McLeod, , or whatever the hell his name is, muttered the words "Mike Peters", they'd erupt in high-pitched shrieks. But unfortunately, by the end of Modern English's set, they were there to stay.

I used the break between sets to run down to the Men's Room, pausing only to see what the Mets' score was on the TVs near the bar. (And may I just say, Eff the Atlanta Braves! For some reason, the Mets always play like total crap against them.)

When I got back, Denise told me that Mandy and Tim had been by. They had tried to take their seats, but for some reason, Mandy's view was blocked (I think by the soundboard.) They were exhausted from being out on the dance floor for the first few sets, and had hiked it up to the Sky Bar to see if there were some seats available up there. (They were trying to save something in the tank for Saturday's Squeeze Show, which was taking place at a Manhattan standing-only venue.) I told Denise to text them, and tell if they wanted, they could sit in my seat and our extra seat, and I'd sit in theirs. I'm tall enough to see over whatever was in front of them there, and as much as I like sitting with Denise, once the music starts, it's too loud to talk or anything anyway -- the best we can do is hold hands.

Denise texted them, but Mandy texted back that they were fine where they were, thanks. They had found some seats. It's just as well. Because if they'd have taken me up on my offer, they'd have cursed me forever after for making them sit near the Screeching Scream Sisters!

Colin Powell (or whatever his name was) came out to introduce The Alarm, but before he did, he wanted to say a few words about cancer. Two of the members of The Alarm, Mike Peters and his wife, Jules Jones Peters, have survived bouts with cancer. They now have some sort an affiliation with a cancer-related group. It was hard to hear exactly what he was saying, though, because after every sentence, the two harpies next to us let go with another round of howls. At one point, I think they were cheering for the cancer.

In any event, a moment or two later, Hughen McTeagle (or whatever his name was) introduced The Alarm, and the crowd went wild. (Especially you know who).

As I mentioned earlier, Denise and I saw The Alarm play with Patti Smith about 20 years ago at the Vanderbilt in Plainview. I went mostly for Patti, but when The Alarm played, I had one of those experiences where every song they played, I was like, "I know that one. Oh, I know that one too. I love that song."

The Alarm had released a new album earlier this year which the current tour is named after, Sigma. I'm a little so-so on it -- there are songs I like, there are others I'm indifferent to -- but Denise has been more positive about it than I have. They crashed onto the stage with a lot of energy, opening with a song from the new album, "Blood Red, Viral Black". They immediately followed this with my favorite Alarm song (possibly because it's based on the Stephen King book), "The Stand".

If you've never seen them, you'll find that The Alarm is fairly raucous for a WLIR band. Although they have a keyboard, the music is more guitar (and sometimes harmonica) driven. And Peters himself is a high-energy performer, so much so that they had three mics on the stage for him, one on the far left, one on the far right, and one in the middle. This way, he could run back and forth all night, and sing into whichever mic he happened to be closest to. He also worked his way into the crowd at one point, walking around the packed dance floor and singing the chorus of "Neutral" along with a bunch of bright-eyed and happy-looking fans.

Now those of us who frequent the top section of The Paramount are often a comfort-loving bunch. It's not that we're not enjoying the music -- we are. But we're enjoying it by sitting there, swaying a little, singing along, and not bothering anybody. This is how it was last night. Except for two of us.

The two women next to Denise never sat for a moment during The Alarm's set. This might not have been so bad, except that they were the only two people in the entire back section standing. I felt really sorry for the luckless couple who had bought the seats behind them, as I'm sure they were the only two people in the seated area who couldn't see the band for the whole show.

What's worse, the Pigeon Sisters never stopped squealing for the whole night. It was, "Wooo! Wooo! Mike Peters! Mike Peters! Mike Peters! Mike Peters!" And at various points, the smaller one would turn around towards the crowd behind her, and angrily wave her hands up, trying to get the whole crowd to stand. They completely ignored her.

The truth is, I'm not really sure that these two weren't employees of the band, a couple of ringers thrown into the crowd to try to artificially create some excitement. Because at one point, The Alarm's sound guy (who was the next most animated person in the section aside from these two numbskulls) stepped into the row in front of them and handed them a paper (presumably the setlist?).

Maybe they're just super fans who follow the band from city to city, and the whole crew knows them. Maybe they're groupies. Or maybe they're just a couple of hired shills, because for all of the screaming, something seemed phony about them. (If they were really that into the band, I think they'd have gone down to dance floor and tried to get close to them.) In any event, they certainly diminished the concert for those around them, especially the people sitting behind them.

Back to The Alarm. (Remember them?) They continued to work their way through their set, playing some of their best stuff. "Rescue Me", "Sold Me Down the River", "Strength", "Rain in the Summerime", the hits just kept coming. The crowd downstairs was dancing up a storm, doubtlessly the reaction poor Robbie Gray had been pining for.

Where we were, things were getting ridiculous. Denise was leaning hard in my direction, over the empty seat, while the obnoxious girl close to her kept yelling "Mike Peters! Mike Peters!" and bumping into her. I finally leaned over and suggested that D. move over into the empty seat between us. I still had free room on the aisle. She took me up on this. However, a song or two later I looked over, and this odious woman had now moved in front of the seat that Denise had just vacated, and was bumping into her again.

At this point, I had two choices. I strongly considered tapping her and telling her to move back over in front of her own seat. And if she'd have given me a hard time about, this time, I would have moved into that seat myself, and it would have been unpleasant for all of us. The other choice, and the one less likely to have resulted in me winding up the evening with a lifetime ban to the Paramount, was that across the aisle, some seats had opened up. It was pretty late in the set by this point, so I figured that the people who had been sitting there had either gone home, or would ride out the rest of the show on the dance floor. If they'd have come back, we could just go back to the seats we had paid for anyway. So I gave Denise a little wave, and the two of scooted across the aisle to more comfortable (and quieter) environs.

A short while later, Mandy and Tim waved as they headed down the stairway in front of us. I'm not sure if they hit the road early, or just decided to end the evening on the dance floor. As The Alarm wound down their set, the couple who had been sitting behind Patsy and Edina walked by. As they descended the stairway, I saw the woman lean over and say something to Denise (who was now sitting on the left aisle seat.) She told me afterwards that the woman had said something to effect of "I'm sorry those other two chased you out of your seats."

The Alarm finished up their set with "Spirit of '76" (after Mike Peters had told a story of separate meetings with Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer that had been inspirational to him). They danced off the stage for a few minutes, and came right back for an encore that included a three-song medley, followed by "Sixty Eight Guns". They finished up with one of the songs from the new album, "Two Rivers", to allow the two banshees to bellow their last high-pitched wails of the night. Then the show ended.

You'll find The Alarm's setlist for the night at www.donthireshriekyshillsyouratbastards.com.

One last aggravation occurred on the way home, as we discovered that Huntington's finest had blocked off Route 110 for a sobriety check. There wasn't any point saying anything to any of the (many) cops involved in this, as I'm sure they had about as much say in the matter of setting up this roadblock as we did. But to whoever did order it, I'd like to say a nice hot, steamy "F-you".

With all of the shootings and other crime you hear about all the time taking place over by the Huntington railroad station, you thought it would be a good use of police resources to hassle the people who had just come into and spent money in the community? (And I'm talking as a guy who drinks water all night.) You see someone bobbing and weaving on the road, by all means, pull him over, and if he's drunk, book him. But these sobriety checks inconvenience the hell out of a lot of people who haven't done anything wrong just so you can find a couple who have.

I've finally run through all of the events that Denise and I had bought tickets for at the Paramount. They just added a show to the schedule that includes Motionless in White and New Years Day that I was kind of on the fence about buying tickets for. The sobriety check just made up my mind to skip it. It's enough of a pain in the ass to drive all the way to Huntington and find some kind of parking, without getting hassled like this when all you want to do is get home.

Anyway, that's enough ranting for tonight. It was still a very good show, However, I'd like to point out that in comparison to the Roger Silverberg show the night before, no one at The Paramount handed me even one hot zepole. And Todd Evans, Hank Stone and Bob Westcott never once jumped up and bellowed "Wooo! Woooo! Woooo! Roger Silverberg!" in my ear all night long on Thursday night. So Roger's show might still have the advantage. We'll see what Santana has in store for me on Sunday night.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Roger Silverberg

Organizing my thoughts for this one is going to be a little like trying to reign in a rope tornado with my hands, but I'll give it a shot. (I was going to say "give it a whirl", but that's beneath even me.)

We'll start with Roger. Roger Silverberg, aka "The Silver Bird" (I don't remember who gave him that nickname, but I've always liked it --Roger's had silver hair since I first met him, and I have to grudgingly admit he wears it better than I do) is a local Long Island musician I first met about 15 years ago (or maybe more). I might have met him first at one of Dave Isaacs' open mics, and he got involved with the LIMC, and the scene around The Pisces Cafe shortly thereafter.

I haven't seen Roger perform in more than a decade -- as I've related previously in this blog, fatherhood took up most of my spare time in this last decade -- but now that my children are both young adults, I've been taking something of a grand reunion tour, and catching up with various LIMC musicians and bands when I can. (I'm pretty sure the last time I saw him play was at the Conklin Barn a little while after his Sketches & Footprints album came out, although I did run into him once at a Deborah Lombardi show at a little coffee house in Patchogue Village maybe five or six years ago.)

Cut to Todd Evans -- Todd and I have been looking for a local music show to meet up at for awhile. And I'm 99% sure that Todd is also the person who first told me about The Michael Braceland Art Gallery. Somewhere along the way, he mentioned either playing at, or seeing a show at, a little place near me, "right near the McDonald's" in Patchogue. Now I've been up and down Route 101 about a million times since moving to Patchogue 20 years ago (and I and my family have almost personally kept that particular McDonald's in business), and I never saw anything resembling a music venue anywhere near that area.

But after further discussion, I realized where it must be. Down the block from Mickey D's (as the kids seem to like to call it), and across the street from the Lowe's, is a tiny little shopping area. I'm not even sure it's big enough to be called a strip mall. There's a hero place in the front, closest to the street, and a pizza place (or maybe the hero place and the pizza place are attached? I think they're two separate stores, but I could be wrong), and there's a little beer distributor (that never has the kind of beer I'm looking for) that's also kind of a bodega, and even serves as a kind of half-ass Fed-Ex (as I found out when I had my work laptop crashed and I had to Fed-Ex it back upstate to my boss to have him reload all of the programs onto it last October -- they weren't able to help). And although I never noticed it before, in between the pizza shop and the beer distributor is an art gallery, which also hosts live music and poetry nights and all kinds of interesting things. This is the Michael Braceland Art Gallery.

(As an aside -- which you know I love to do -- Patchogue has always seems to have some atypical music venues. When The Slant was still playing, for awhile we booked monthly gigs at a venue that was alternately called Harry's Bruncheonette and The Rooster Cafe. Harry, the proprietor, was a lovely man who was a recovering alcoholic, and much of his clientele were people who must have known him from AA Meetings. And like many recovering alcoholics, they replaced their drinking addiction with an addiction that made their lives more manageable -- smoking. I've never seen so many heavy smokers in one tiny brunch place. Patchogue also features a delicatessen a little further west on Montauk highway that covers up the deli shelves on weekend nights and hosts live bands. It's an arts-loving community.)

So bringing it all together, a few weeks ago, I got an email from Roger saying that his band, The Roger Silverberg Trio, would be playing at the Michael Braceland Art Gallery on Thursday night, August 22. I immediately put it on my calendar, and finally, about a week or so ago, remembered to contact Todd. (He was already aware of it, and planning on going. The so-and-so always knows about shows before I do.)

My plans were thrown a little up in the air earlier in the week. My daughter, who works for a pet grooming place, was scheduled to go into a special training program somewhere in Huntington sometime this summer. I knew that she might need me to drive some or all of the time she was doing her training. But she's the kind of a person who probably should have been a spy instead of an animal groomer. Because no one could ever torture information out of her. I've been asking her for months about when the training was starting, how many days a week, what hours, etc. No luck. Even the psycho dentist from The Marathon Man couldn't have made her tell. So suddenly this week, she popped in on and woke me (after four hours sleep) to tell me she'd need me to drive her on Wednesday. And for awhile, there was a question as to whether she'd also need me to pick her up from her training on Thursday night. But it all ended OK, as she got a ride from a friend who's training with her, and I got to go to the show.

I arrived early, just loving the idea of going out for music at a place like five minutes from my house. I've been enjoying seeing shows at The Patchogue Theatre and 89 North lately. But this place makes going to those venues seem like driving up to Syracuse. (OK, I'm totally exaggerating, but you know what I mean.)

I entered the gallery to find a fairly intimate room with a few rows of chairs set up in kind of a semi-circle around the performing area. Roger and his band were setting up. So after saying hello, I started talking to Michael about the place. It was nicely lit, and understandably festooned with paintings and other works of art hanging off of the walls. (I stole that word "festooned" from Michael. I didn't think I'd ever heard the word before when I heard him say it, but when I got home and saw it written, it looked more familiar.) I couldn't see the paintings that well -- I'll have to check them out at a later date -- but I liked what I saw, which was a lot of nature (tree) paintings with some pretty vibrant colors.

As we talked, and the band warmed up, a number of familiar faces walked in, including Hank Stone (who had come home from a weekend up in the Woodstock area), Todd, and Bob Westcott (who had also spent last weekend up at Woodstock).

A short while later, Roger and his band started playing. The band consisted of Roger on lead vocals, fluctuating between guitar and keyboard; Steve Blatt on bass; and Steve Cafarelli on drums and backing vocals.

They played two full sets. They did a nice job musically, and I have to say that the sets themselves were very well constructed. They mixed older songs with stuff from Roger's most recent album (2016's The Old Dog), plus a single from last year ("Build Your Own Road"), a few covers (of Dylan and The Hollies), and some new material, most of which I think they just recorded recently, presumably for an upcoming album. They also did one of Steve Cafareli's songs, which I think was called "Another Heartbreak Coming Down", that was also quite good.

Roger has always been a fine songwriter, and it was crystal clear that he was enjoying himself, playing in such a nice venue where all the attention was focused on the music. A few songs that I especially enjoyed hearing were "I Wait for April" (which was my favorite song off of his first album), a new song called "Remembering Walter Becker" (which led Hank to suggest that he and Roger should do a tribute to dead rock stars album together, as Hank has several songs that fit into that category), "Feet Don't Fry" from Sketches, and "My Number One" from The Old Dog. The clear highlight of the night, though, was the band's rendition of Roger's song "The Sound of Rain" near the end of the second set, which occurred just as the rain was falling outside of the gallery. (I know that Michael was recording with his phone, and he stepped outside for just a moment midway through so the rain appeared in the shot as the song played. Hopefully he'll post it on his Facebook page.) The concert ended appropriately, with the band playing the title track from the album, "The Old Dog".

The show also featured some delights that were non-musical in nature. At some point during near the end of the first set, Todd disappeared for a moment and came back with a delicious bag of piping hot zeppoles from the pizza parlor next door, which he was kind enough to pass down the row. I suggested that the band change its name to "Led Zeppole" to commemorate the moment, but the idea seemed to be a nonstarter. But just like the coincidence with the rain that happened later, just as the zeppoles were being passed around, Roger and the band were performing "Love in the Kitchen". Then later in the night, a woman whom I didn't know (but most of the others did) came in with a box of oatmeal cookies that she had Hank distribute around the room. All of this food just made me want to slap Bryan Ferry all over again!

So all told, it was a very satisfying night. It was fun to see Roger playing again after all of this time. And to hear him in such a pleasant setting with good company and even some tasty desserts, and so close to my house -- well let me put it this way: This was the first show of a musical trifecta I'm seeing this weekend. And The Alarm and Santana are going to have to do some serious work to catch up -- the bar has been set pretty high.

Friday, August 16, 2019

July 2019 Song of the Day

Recently, I've joined the crew who put together the Sputnik Music website's monthly Song of the Day (SOTD) charts. Every month, the person hosting it announces a theme, and the various members suggest different songs, which get allotted, on song per day, for the month.

I joined up in July. (I'd give you the August chart, but it's not quite complete yet. That's because at any given time, there are from 8 to 12 of involved, so we're all making multiple picks over the course of the month.)

So anywhere, here's July. The theme for the month was recs made for specific other Sputnik users. The month's playlist went like this:

July 2019

Artist/song/link/overall rating given by Sput users (out of 5)/my rating (X=I rec'd it)

 1. Zounds - Can't Cheat Karma - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjq4Uf_0o1g - 3.40 - 3.5
 2. Xinlissupreme -Fatal Sisters Opened Umbrella - https://xinlisupreme.bandcamp.com/track/fatal-sisters-opened-umbrella - 2.97 - 3.1
 3. Pagan Alter - The Rising of the Dark Lord - https://paganaltarofficial.bandcamp.com/track/the-rising-of-the-dark-lord - 3.34 - 3.2
 4. Husker Du - Something I Learned Today - https://youtu.be/rktLCGpQ3RA - 3.57 - 3.8
 5. Elza Soares - Pra Fuder - https://youtu.be/3sPSWr166N4 - 3.49 - 3.2
 6. Enisum - Snow Storm - https://youtu.be/lkcdzEzyKwA - 3.47 - 2.9
 7. Foxygen - Make It Known - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oyrP1XUUj0 - 3.38 - 2.7
 8. Neighborhood Brats - 50 Shades of Fuck You - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N2Ai0qA9m4 - 3.30 - 3.5
 9. Red Fang - Wires - https://youtu.be/vGgwZeYj57Y - 3.35 - 2.5
10. Kamsky Led - Celestial - https://soundcloud.com/hjordisbrittastrom/kamsky-led-celestial?in=hjordisbrittastrom/sets/kamsky-led-echoes-ep-2016 - 2.75 - 3.5
11. Lights - ...And Counting - https://youtu.be/w3MLZqPCibQ - 2.81 - 3.1
12. Saiko - Express - http://youtu.be/JEORO6rx21I (the first song) - 3.02 - 2.1
13. Future Bible Heroes - Memories of Love - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYVEPH1opbc - 3.12 - X
14. The Good Rats - Papa Poppa - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSWx6fM-Ol8 - 3.14 - X
15. Nanowar of Steel - Norwegian Reggaeton - https://youtu.be/j0YXfeNxJJ0 - 3.23 - 3.6
16. Scatterbrain - Don't Call Me Dude - https://youtu.be/NbLhHtaVIO4 - 2.85 - 2.1
17. Crass - Do They Owe Us a Living? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Srkm5oWFwiQ - 2.90 - 2.3
18. Emiliana Torrini - Fingertips - https://youtu.be/feYRs0hE5SE - 3.30 - 2.5
19. The Burning of Rome - Terrible Tales from Tocqueville - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4qwBTAMZwg - 3.35 - 3.1
20. The Decemberists - The Queen's Rebuke - https://youtu.be/qeUHUYaT-WU - 3.38 - 2.9
21. Loney, Dear - Sum - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-Ie6h7gXrc - 2.90 - 3.1
22. Teen Daze - Four More Years - https://teendaze.bandcamp.com/album/four-more-years - 3.17 - 3.0
23. The Sea and Cake - Sound and Vision - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAyQgegEjzI - 3.23 - 3.3
24. The Last Sighs of the Wind - Bird's Song - https://youtu.be/c0xlm1g-uhI - 2.92 - 3.1
25. Bowery Electric - Fear of Flying - https://youtu.be/KRw67JydRDM - 2.86 - 3.0
26. Eurythmics - This City Never Sleeps - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITuBoXM4jPo&list=PLWprWK6AVnu7eSM9NzDkJclQ1KKqjrTdb&index=16&t=0s - 3.26 - X
27. Frank Zappa - Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOhVbjsxlH0 - 3.12 - 2.3
28. King Krule - Dum Surfer - https://youtu.be/K5-f1Bnltu8 - 2.90 - 2.0
29. Frustration - Electric Heat - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsRpBMgNc6Q - 2.57 - 3.0
30. Illuminati Hotties - Pressed 2 Death https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMPrvE6tbQE - 3.27 - 2.4
31. Shawn Colvin - The Facts About Jimmy - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPhPM7pwags - 3.33 - 3.2

As you can, my recs for the month were on the 13th, the 14th and the 26th (Future Bible Heroes, The Good Rats and Eurythmics. 

The highest rated song for the month by both the group and myself (since we aren't allowed to rate our own recs) was the Husker Du song "Something I Learned Today". The lowest rated song by the group was Frustration's "Electric Heats", while the song I rated the lowest for the month was King Krule's "Dum Surfer".

I think the links are all working, so if you like, give them a listen and see what you think. I'll be back with some more live show stuff in a week or so.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Femme Schmidt, Bryan Ferry

In the past, some of you have accused me of being just a tad ... grumpy? ... in some of my live show reviews. Spoiler Alert: You ain't seen nuthin' yet!

So, Bryan Ferry. Where to begin? I guess the best place would be in the beginning, a few months back, when Denise came home and happily announced that Bryan Ferry was playing in the city this summer, and that she'd just bought us some tickets. Regular readers of this blog can tell you that when I hear about shows in Manhattan these days, my first emotion is usually one of caution instead of one of excitement. But OK. I like Bryan Ferry. Could be fun.

The next thing she related was that she'd been able to score some great tickets, in the first row of the balcony. I felt a twist in my stomach. "Sweetie," I said slowly, knowing I was about to be in a world of trouble. "You know I can't sit in the first row of the balcony."

I talked a little about this in my Jon Anderson write-up two weeks ago. I suffer from really bad acrophobia. Or rather, I very rarely suffer from it, as I usually manage to never put myself in the position to have to deal with it. But I can't handle any kind of heights, especially anything that's going to put me close to a rail. I get an actual physical reaction from it, like an electrical jolt that starts in the soles of my feet and shoots up my entire body. And this is just from seeing anyone else get close to a rail they could fall over. Sometimes, I even get it from watching a film or a TV show, if they show a camera shot of someone looking down from a height. Second row of a balcony? Not my favorite place to be, but if worse comes to worse, I can handle it. But first row? Absolutely undoable for me. (I once had to exchange a great seat at the Metropolitan Opera for a metal folding chair in the last row of the orchestra because it was too close to the front of one of those side boxes. And, in fact, the first apartment Denise and I ever lived in together had a balcony, and the only way I could go out on it at all was to position my chair so I could literally feel my back against the wall of the building.)

So I started the Ferry show in trouble.

A day or so later, Denise came home and told me rather unhappily that she'd managed to exchange our balcony tickets for much crappier seats on the floor. I thanked her. When Denise was a teenager, as the oldest of four children, she was often asked to babysit for her siblings. And when they got out of line, she would threaten them with the ultimate of punishments -- she would put them on "the list". This would elicit immediate fear and remorse from the offender, as going on "the list" would mean she'd tell her parents who had dared to misbehave on their night out, and woe betide them! ("No! Please! I'll be good! Don't put me on the list!") As some of you have probably already guessed, I live much of my life on the list. (By the time we were driving to this show, I hadn't actually remembered that this was the show I'd made Denise trade in her good balcony tickets for. But Denise reminded me. So goes life on the list.)

There were also some other aspects of the show that also made me uneasy. Instead of it being in one of the more familiar clubs in midtown Manhattan (or even a little uptown at the Beacon Theater), it was set at someplace all the way uptown in Washington Heights, near Columbia University. And the venue, the United Palace Theatre, didn't make it easy to find information about the show. I couldn't find anything about an opening band, I couldn't find a start time for the show, etc. Eventually, I found something online that said it was a 7PM showtime. Since there was no info anywhere about an opening act, I figured probably there was none.

I did my due diligence before the show -- I looked up the setlist Ferry was playing a few days earlier, printed it out, and even made a YouTube playlist out of it so I'd be more familiar with some of the more obscure songs. (I'm a fairly casual fan of Bryan Ferry. I always felt that if I owned a copy of Avalon, and owned a Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music Greatest Hits album, that was pretty much all I needed.)

By the day of the show, I was pretty psyched. I'm always a little uneasy heading into the city, especially if I'm going to a venue I'm not familiar with, but this time, I wasn't too worried about arriving late. Even with no opening act, the first song he was playing that I really felt I couldn't miss didn't happen until six songs into the set, where he was playing "Slave to Love".

Unfortunately, I made one key error in my show prep. I didn't eat lunch. And much of what happened thereafter stemmed from that poor decision. But in my defense, I had my reasons, as you'll see. (Well, I'll explain it, anyway. You might still think I was a moron, and it's a fair point.)

Here's the deal. I'm a diabetic. I'm not on insulin, but my blood sugar isn't very well controlled these days, and I'm trying to bring it down with diet, exercise and oral medications. (And also a weekly injectable.) When I'm hungry, and my blood sugar gets low, I'm not much fun to be around. (Whereas normally, I'm a barrel of laughs. Ask Denise!) However, the other side of the coin is that at age 62, I also often get stomach and digestion problems. And I've found if I eat too much before a show, it puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to use a bathroom that might not be the most pleasant (or most private) at the venue, a situation I hate to be in. So I didn't really really eat before Denise and I left the house because my stomach had been bothering me earlier. My plan was to eat a protein bar as were leaving (to hold me over for the drive into the city), then grab a frank or something from a street vendor outside before I went into the theater. And if worse came to worst, I figured I'd just grab a small bag of chips or a candy bar inside the theater, then eat dinner after the show.

We left the house a little before four. Instead of using her regular car GPS, which doesn't always account for traffic, Denise decided to use this new app she'd downloaded on her phone that everyone had been raving about. As we reached the corner, an unfamiliar male voice with a somewhat effeminate British accent ordered us to "Go left". (Sounded sort of northern England, like Christopher Eccleston. I only know that because of the Doctor Who episode where someone called him on his accent and he explained, "Lots of planets have a north.").

"What the hell was that?" I asked. I'd been looking down at my setlist, and the voice had made me jump. That's when Denise told me about the app. I promptly named him Percy.

Before long, we were on the LIE, and as you'd expect for a summer Friday in the late afternoon, there was traffic. However, we were able to beat it for a while by driving in the HOV lane. It was fun driving past all the people stuck in the regular lanes and waving as we zipped by. At least it was until the HOV lane got bogged down, too.

"Police presence has been reported ahead," Percy the GPS informed us helpfully. (I thought this was a pretty great feature, until we passed several other hidden police cars that the GPS hadn't informed us about. It seems that you'd better not rely on the app too much, as it only bothers to mention about one out of every three speed traps.)

Before long, the GPS instructed us, "Exit the highway in one quarter mile."

"How the hell are we supposed to do that?" I asked. By this time we were in bumper to bumper traffic in the far left line, and even if there had been room to go right, we weren't legally allowed to exit the HOV lane for another two miles.

All in all, Percy seemed to be very confused, trying route after route as the accidents piled up along various possible paths into the city. He also seemed a little flustered that we kept ignoring his (illegal) attempts to change our choice of routes.

We wound up following his original plan, which involved taking the Clearview to the Whitestone Bridge, then guiding us into upper Manhattan though the Bronx.

But the route was a nightmare. Every time we were stuck in the right lane, he inevitably wanted us to make the next left, and when we were in the left lane, it was all "Go right." I could see that Denise, who was driving (as is usual for us) was starting to get flustered, as several times, we had no choice but to circle back to a turn that he'd told us to make too late. I mostly kept quiet, as I didn't want to be in any further trouble. (There are different levels of "the list", much like the different circles of hell in Dante's Inferno.)

We had quite a little sightseeing expedition, as Percy led us around in circles on blocks that wouldn't have been out of place in Beirut. At one point, we stopped dead for several minutes in front of a seedy topless bar that I'm certain employed some of the sexiest toothless, one-armed dancers you could possibly find. For a long while, I had no idea where we were. But eventually, I realized that we must have passed through the Bronx and into upper Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Percy took us on the most circuitous, Monty Python-type route you could ask for. He'd order us to make a left off of a given street, then make a few more turns, and a minute later, we'd be back on the street we'd started on in the first place. I swear it had us on St. Nicholas Avenue three or four different times. I was sure that somewhere in Northern England, there was a table full of men sitting around and laughing their asses off that we kept doing what they told us.

Miraculously, even after all of the winds and turns (and after Percy had tried to talk us into getting onto the Bruckner Expressway which was overhead while we were stuck on the service row below!), we still made it to the theater in plenty of time. We eventually parked at the world's slowest parking garage, paid the extra fee for an oversized vehicle (even though Denise was fairly sure she had already paid for it online), and walked the block over to the theater, making it onto the line by 6:45PM.

By this time I was starving. I also had to pee something fierce. Unfortunately, although I could smell the aroma of meat cooking somewhere in the distance, there were no street vendors anywhere to be found. There were some tables selling things over to the side of the theater, but the only food items that were available were various raw fruits, which I really never eat.

Screw it, I figured. I know most of these Manhattan theaters don't sell actual food. But there's generally some kind of junk for sale -- chips, candy, something like that. And right at that moment, the need to relieve myself overrode the need to eat.

As we passed the front of the theater, we were waved around all the way to the other side of the block, to stand in a (very short) line. At this point, it started to slowly sink in to my dim, famished little brain that it couldn't be a 7PM start time. It was after 6:30, they still weren't letting people in, and the line was way too short for it to be less than a half hour until show time. I was a little panicky that they weren't going to let us in until 7, as I wasn't sure my bladder would make it. But at about 6:45, they started moving things out of the way, and we made our way back around the block and into the theater. As we trudged back towards the front door, a recorded voice warned us over and over that were not allowed to bring outside food or beverages into the theater. This reassured me that there must be, in fact, inside food and beverages.

There were metal detectors to go through, but the entry process was still pretty quick, because there were still so few people there. I vaguely noticed that the workers looked more church members than ushers and the like, but at the time I was too focused on the pangs in my stomach and the pressure in my bladder to think about it. I also notice the words "Spiritual Center" somewhere or other, and as we entered, I saw a big poster promoting an appearance by Deepak Chopra in October.

The inside of the (fairly large) building was all faded red carpets, and I later learned that this was one of those old, lavish movie theaters from the 1930's that had been refurbished and turned into a venue for religious leaders, and occasionally musical artists. (The theater was bought out by the TV evangelist Reverend Ike in 1969, and it's his church that still owns it today.)

As we entered, the young woman who took out tickets tried to show us where to enter the auditorium. "Where are your bathrooms?" I asked, completely ignoring the info about the seats.

"Upstairs," she answered. Of course.

We made our way up the huge flight of stairs, as there were no elevators in sight. (Denise found one later, but it didn't seem to have any buttons to make the doors open, so it was basically useless to us anyway.) After mountain climbing up the stairs, I headed down the hallway to the Men's Room, stepped up to the full-sized urinal, and did my business. Ahhhh! Sweet relief.

I stepped out into the hall. Denise was still in the Ladies' Room. I walked up to the completely empty bar, ordered us two bottles of water, and asked what they had to eat.

"Nothing, I'm afraid," the girl said with a smile, shattering my spirit with a single word. "Plenty of drinks, though."

"No chips or anything? Anywhere in the building?" I asked incredulously. She checked with the man working next to her, who verified that they weren't selling a single scrap of food in the whole building. My spirits dropped below the floor.

Denise was sympathetic, but there wasn't much she could do. I didn't think they'd let us leave the building and get back in again, and I didn't think I'd be able to do much if they did. I wasn't going to go wondering all over Washington Heights. I might have chanced it by myself if I'd have had a ticket stub. But our "tickets" where on Denise's phone. (And it probably won't surprise you to learn that I have as much of a chance of successfully landing the space shuttle as I would of figuring out how to work Denise's Smartphone.)

They showed us to our seats, which were typically tight, hip-hugging old movie theater seats with wooden armrests. (As I write this two days later, my legs are still a little sore where the sides of the chair pressed into me, and I have a big bruise on one hip. Thanks, blood thinning meds.) I did have leg room, at least, as there was no chair in front of me. Nevertheless, I sat there feeling miserable, and completely sorry for myself. All I could think of was with an eight o'clock start, Ferry would play until 10 or 10:30, so it was going to be over three hours before I could put some food in my stomach.

So I sat there in the still-mostly-empty theater, all gloomy and mean. The workers all seemed to be volunteers for the church that owned the building. They were all happy, and exceedingly polite. (And a little bit insane cultish.) I just wanted to slap them. I killed the time by texting bitterly with my son, telling him what had happened.

"Where are you?" he asked.

I told him. I asked if he thought he could find a way to deliver a pizza to me. He stopped responding.

Over the next hour, from time to time, I texted him the random thoughts that popped into my head. "I'd hack up my grandmother for a Fig Newton," I told him. He continued to ignore me.

Next to me, Denise whiled away the time by texting with friends from her WLIR Facebook group who were on their way to the show. "Tim and Mandy are stuck in traffic," she informed me.

"Tell them to bring food!" I begged. I might as well have been a ghost.

"Oh, Mandy said there is an opening act tonight."

Swell, I thought. That's another half hour between me and some food.

"They probably have good seats right up front," Denise speculated, doubtlessly brooding over the good balcony seats she'd given up that would have allowed her see the stage clearly without being blocked by the crowd.

A moment later she corrected herself. "Oh, they're sitting in the balcony tonight."

"Ask them to lower down a Snickerdoodle on a rope," I pleaded hopefully. "Does Tim have a fishing pole in his trunk?"

That's pretty much the way it went, as the theater filled out.

By the time it was almost eight, even though I was still pretty dejected, I had started to feel a little better physically, probably because I hadn't been walking all over the place expending energy. Still, I was in a pretty lousy mood for an opening band I didn't know, and I'd have loved to have slapped Bryan Ferry silly for picking such a dipsy doodle venue to play in.

"The Paramount sells food," I thought, sourly, thinking about all of the other places I go to see live music shows. "The Space sells food. Jones Beach sells food. I can't afford any of it, but they do sell food."

The canned music wasn't making my mood any better. For some reason, Manhattan venues play the worst music before shows.

At the front of the stage, there was a sign made up of red lights. Denise asked if I could read it, but the middle of it was blocked. She stood up, and discovered that it said "Femme Schmidt." We both guessed (correctly) that that must be the name of the opening act.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, the lights went out, and a young looking duo took the stage. (At first, I thought it was a trio. But Bryan Ferry had his drummer surrounded by what looked like Maxwell Smart's "Cone of Silence", and what I thought was a third band member was actually the guitarist's reflection off of the fiberglass.

Sure enough, the woman announced that they were Femme Schmidt, and they were there from Berlin. They were thrilled to be playing their first ever show in the United States, and even more thrilled to be opening for the great Bryan Ferry. ("Eff Bryan Ferry!" I thought viciously.)

They then began playing. I think I can sum them up for you in three words: "German Mazzy Star". They played a very low-key set along to canned bass and canned percussion.

Now I've been seeing this phenomenon lately of opening acts that feature one or two musicians playing over backing tracks, and here's my message to promoters: "Stop it! (Hitting them with a rolled up newspaper:) Bad! Bad! What did you do?"

Seriously. This is a godawful trend. If you're too damned cheap to pay for the whole band to be there, then don't even bother. I guarantee there are hundreds of local bands who'd be thrilled to show up and play at a show like this with the whole band. I don't blame the artist. It's expensive to fly your bass player and drummer over from Germany. I blame the promoter. Just cut it out!

Anyway, Femme Scmidt, who I really think should change their name to "Frau Blucher" if they want to make it in the States ("Brrrrr!"), were OK, but kind of boring. They played a bunch of original songs off of a new forthcoming album, plus a somewhat mediocre cover of "Landslide". As I listened to them, these were the thoughts that floated through my head: "Bratwurst!" "Black Forest Ham!" "Strudel!"

They got an OK reaction from the crowd. Not exuberant, but not totally indifferent either.

By this point, the building was pretty filled out. The people sitting next to Denise arrived and squeezed in, and both Denise and the lady sitting next to her were squashed. Got to love those old theaters. (We didn't buy the extra seat for this particular show, as we sometimes do, because these were expensive tickets).

As we waited between sets, a huge man who seemed like he might have been developmentally disabled came along without an usher, and hesitantly told the group of four sitting in front of us that he thought the two innermost seats they were sitting in belonged to him and his friend. After some confusion, they left. Denise thought they'd probably come back with an usher just in time to stand in our way at the beginning of Bryan Ferry's set, but we never saw them again. The fellow's friend, a much shorter man in a David Bowie shirt, sat in the inner seat. As soon as there was some stirring on he stage, the shorter man let out with a "Wooo!"

"Uh oh," Denise said to me. "He's a 'woo' guy."

"He won't be when these lights go out and I jab him through the temple with my pen," I thought, darkly.

Linda from the WLIR group briefly stopped over to say hello. This was her last show in the U.S. before she'd be flying home to Israel. She was sitting in the balcony near Tim and Mandy.

A moment later, the lights did go out. Immediately, the couple next to Denise moved over one seat, as there was an unclaimed seat on the other side of them. At the same time, the huge man in the row in front moved over one chair (to a seat that wasn't his), completely blocking Denise's view, and eclipsing most of the known universe. Denise frowned, and then moved a seat over to her left, which I'm sure didn't thrill the lady sitting next to her. But without me on her other side, Denise was now able to lean to her right, so everybody looked considerably more comfortable than they previously had been.

Bryan Ferry and his 9-piece backing band then took the stage, to much applause, as the instrumental song "India" from the Avalon album played over the speakers. The theme for the tour was some sort of anniversary or other of Avalon (I'm not really sure how that worked, as the album was released in 1982), and the intention was to play every song from that LP over the course of the night, as well as most of Ferry's solo and Roxy Music's best songs.

The whole crowd stood for Ferry's first song, "The Main Thing." When it was over, everyone sat. Everyone except for the young girl two rows in front of me, who stood there happily recording on her phone, as if to say, "I'm a millennial! I'm made of glass! Aren't I cute?" Luckily, she settled down after a song or so (I swear, that blow dart didn't come from me!), and I was able to see the show.

So what do I want to tell you about this concert? Well, several things. Firstly, about Ferry himself. On the way there, Denise asked me if I'd watched any recent YouTube videos of Ferry, and I admitted I hadn't. This can be a little risky with some of these older musicians (he's 73 years old). Some of them can still sing, and some of them, not so much.

I'd say for the most part, Bryan Ferry's voice has held up pretty well. It might be just a tad weaker than it used to be, and there were a few songs (unfortunately, some of his best) that he had some trouble with later in the night. These included "Dance Away", "Take a Chance on Me", "To Turn You On", and "More Than This". Maybe he was just getting tired by then.

It's also possible that some of this could have been due to difficulties hearing his own voice on the stage. At several points, I noticed him pressing on his headphones, as if he was trying to hear more clearly. The plexiglass surrounding the drummer makes me suspect that he's probably suffered some hearing loss over the years, and that the Cone of Silence was there so he could better hear himself over the percussion.

Nevertheless, he still sounds like Bryan Ferry, and that's a good thing. I always thought that he had one of the more romantic croons in all of rock music. If I wasn't a married man, and I was trying to seduce a young lady, I might well enlist some Bryan Ferry music to help me in my quest.

The other thing I'll say is that Ferry doesn't waste a lot of time on stage patter. He introduced the band at one point, and said a few Thank You's here and there. But by and large, he kept the show all about the music, which I appreciated. (And even more so because less talk meant I'd get some food sooner.)

And speaking of the band, they were just excellent, maybe one of the best touring bands I've heard ever. As I said earlier, there were nine of them, plus Ferry himself. But if I compare this concert to the Jon Anderson show I saw a few weeks ago, where at times there was too much sound on the stage and his band kind of played over one another, here the sound was crystal clear throughout the night. I was particularly impressed with the older guitarist, whose name I think was Chris Spedding (I had to pull that up from another Ferry review by a guy from New Zealand, but fortunately, he was impressed with the same musicians that I was); with the little female sax player Jorja Chalmers (who looked like she would have been right at home on the old Saturday Night Live skit, "Sprockets"); and with the female backup singer Hannah, who blew the crowd away with her solo at the end of "Avalon". Also, I have no idea who the drummer was, but Ferry always has interesting percussion on his music, and this guy played it all to a tee. But as I said, the whole band was top notch.

I was a little bummed that the setlist didn't include "Virginia Plain". They had been playing it up until a few days earlier, but then they dropped it out of the setlist for some reason or other. (It might just be that they play it when they have a little extra  time near the end of the set, and for the last few nights they haven't. Who knows?) I can't say it's my favorite Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music song. But it has a sentimental attachment, as it was the first Ferry song I ever heard, on WNEW-FM's Friday afternoon Things From England show with Scott Muni. But overall, I couldn't complain. He played almost anything I could have hoped for.

By the time the show let out, I had to use the facilities again, but I wasn't about to climb back up those stairs. (Denise had run up there during two of the weaker songs of the set. I won't say what they were, because guaranteed some of you will say they're your favorite songs, and give me a thumbs down. Bastards!)

I also knew that it was going to be slower than Heinz ketchup getting our car back from that bush-league parking garage. So instead, we ducked into the Mexican restaurant down the block, a place called Rincon Mexicano, which was almost, but not quite, ready to close. I emptied my pathetic bladder once again (in their rest room, of course, you barbarians!) and ordered some steak tacos. The angels blew trumpets from on high, as I enjoyed some amazingly good Mexican food.

Tim and Mandy joined us briefly as our food was delivered. The conversation went something like this:

Tim: I thought he sounded great tonight.

Me: (Munch, munch, slobber, chomp chomp!) Me too! (Crunch, crunch, slurp!)

But by the time Gwen from WUSB showed up, they had already locked the doors of the restaurant, so Tim, Mandy and Gwen left to try to find someplace to get a drink together.

Denise and I finished up and left shortly thereafter (but not before I had also gobbled down Denise's ridiculously tasty beans and rice). There was still a pretty long line for the car. But having eaten and answered nature's other call, I was in much better shape to deal with it. The car came out more quickly than I expected (and I think ahead of some the cars of some other people who had been waiting longer. Tough break, suckers!), and we headed home.

Obviously, I would have enjoyed the show more if I'd been in better physical shape for it. But actually, it was still one of the better concerts I've seen this year.

You can find Bryan Ferry's full setlist at www.nexttimeplayinarealvenueyouratbastard.com.