Friday, June 5, 2009

Classic Full Albums Live On Tour!

Has anyone else noticed how the trend of an artist/band going on tour to revisit a classic album and play it live, in order from start to finish, is becoming very popular? I, for one, couldn't be happier.

I was reminded of this phenomenan when talking upcoming summer shows and my buddy mentioned the ZZ Top / Aerosmith tour. I really didn't have any thought of going as I'm not the biggest ZZ fan in the world and I've seen Aerosmith numerous times in the last twenty years and they just dissapoint me more and more each time because I don't think I've loved anything they've actually released in those twenty years.

I first saw Aerosmith on the Permanent Vacation tour in the summer of 1988 with Guns n Roses opening (first of numerous times seeing GnR as well). It was probably the biggest rock tour of that year and by a miracle we were able to pick up scalped tickets (I think for either face value of like 5 bucks over face) outside the Orange County Fairgrounds for the sold out show in Middletown, NY. It remains one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen. Two great bands right around the peak of their powers. I love 70's Aerosmith and got to hear nuggets like "Rats in The Cellar" along with the obvious "Sweet Emotion", "Dream On" and "Walk This Way". Sure they played some new stuff and Permanent Vacation is actually pretty good...unfortunately, like other things in life, it would never be like the first time whenever I saw Aerosmith again. Loosing setlist space that once held classic rockers to the likes of "Pink" or "Jaded" just doesn't do it for me.

I can't really blame them - Aerosmith have had way more charted hits since the release of "Permanent Vacation" than prior, I just happen to like Aerosmith alot more when they were an album band as opposed to a singles band.

So yeah...that was a lawn seat I didn't expect to buy this summer, until my bud told me their playing "Toys In The Attic", my favorite Aerosmith album, in it's entirety! Sure I've heard the popular half of it live as it contains many of Aerosmith's biggest hits of the 70's (Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way and the title track are pretty standard from the shows I've seen - I think I've heard them do Big Ten Inch live as well), but the other half are great tunes too, so a summer night on the grass with some beers and friends for $20 sounds like a good time to me.

"Toys..." came out 35 years ago when I was but a lad of four, so if I had super hipster parents, perhaps I could have seen them on that tour. Alas my parents gave up on popular music around the time the Beatles started smoking weed, but I thank these bands that revisit these classic albums live for those of us who missed it or weren't born the first time around.

I've seen plenty of my favorite bands when they were just starting out and therefore more or less got to hear their early albums live, but today I'm talking about those that bring the classic back years later...the ones I've seen...and the ones on my wishlist.

The first band that comes to mind is The Who. On the first reunion tour in 1989 I saw the first and last nights of their four night stand at Giant's Stadium. Those performances were epic three and a half hours with all the hits and plenty of rarities, but the first 45 minutes of each night was "Tommy".

These were just about the first shows of the tour right after the band did "Tommy" at Radio City Music Hall so it was fresh in their mind and they brought it to the 70 thousand people who came each night to NJ. If I remember correctly it was about 90 to 95% complete...I think they dropped one or two tracks, but considering the Radio City Music Hall tix were $500, I was happy to save $475 and miss two minor pieces. I'm so glad they started that tour on the east coast as they broadcast the last show of the tour on the radio and by that time, Tommy had become a greatest hits suite and the band was down to playing two hours.

The who would strike again with the classic album live when they did their "Quadrophenia" tour around 1996. Caught one of the nights at Madision Square Garden on that tour which, as with every Who show I've ever seen, was fantastic. Some special guests too with Billy Idol and Gary Glitter. The whole album, a couple of encores, done - loved it!

I remember thinking at the time how I wish more bands would take this idea and run with it and two years later Cheap Trick brought it to town.

The Trick did a three night stand at Irving Plaza from October 29 to Halloween night in 1998 performing their first three albums, one a night, each night. My friend and I couldn't think of a better way to spend Halloween than seeing Cheap Trick do "Heaven Tonight". I remember Kiss were starting their tour on the same night in California and to start the show, a damn good Gene Simmons in full Kiss get up came out to introduce the band with typical Gene hyperbole only to be bum rushed off the stage by a group of dream police to much applause. Then CT came out and rocked the house.

Other shows I've caught in more recent years include Slayer doing the absolute metal classic "Reign In Blood" in full, Roger Waters on his last tour where the second set was "Darkside of the Moon" (with special guest for that night, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason during the DSOTM set) and oddly enough W.A.S.P. doing "The Crimson Idol". I saw W.A.S.P. a few times in the 80's when Poughkeepsie was a key stop on any metal band's tour and decided to check them out for this gig. I didn't own this concept album of theirs from the 90's, but heard they had made a film to go along with it back in the day that either was never toured with anywhere or never toured with in the US. The film would play on a backdrop as the band played along explaining the images. I'll give them kudos, it made it interesting and the tunes were good, the only bummer was after playing this album of material I never heard before, we only got a one or two song encore - was hoping to hear a few more tracks I knew, but I'll just catch them next time around as they were still rockin.

The most recent classic album live shows I've seen have been part of the amazing Don't Look Back shows put on by All Tomorrow's Parties. I believe this series started in 2005 as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival and has since grown (as has the festival which is now held a few times a year in numerous countries). ATP specializes in "Alternative" Music from the mainstream to the quite obscure and almost forgotten but talented.

Usually as part of their festival, a few of the gigs will be "Don't Look Back" sets where a band will play an entire classic live. For example Devo recently performed their debut "Q: Are We Not Me?..." to the less well known to the public influential No Wave legends Suicide doing their debut at the NY ATP festival in September to the you really have to be up on your music Dirty Three and the Drones doing "Ocean Songs" and "Wait Long by the River" respectively.

I've never been the the All Tomorrow's Parties festival (I think last year was their first one in Monticello, NY), but I'm probably going to go at least to the first night this year (check out this Friday lineup - The reunited Jesus Lizard, Iron and Wine, the aforementioned Suicide, Dirty Three and Drones, The Feelies - also doing a full album "Crazy Rhythms" and probably my favorite standup comic David Cross! Plus Cinema by Criterion! Holy shit! - Hell I might just do the whole weekend as curators The Flaming Lips are there, Melvins, Boss Hog...and Monticello is a mere hour away...but back on topic)

So anyway, for the last four or five years, ATP/DLB concerts have brought some amazing shows around and I caught two.

Mudhoney doing all of their early singles plus "Superfuzz Bigmuff" and one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen - Sonic Youth doing "Daydream Nation at McCarran Park Pool in Brooklyn.

Mudhoney was a packed hot sweaty night at Bowery Ballroom. Great Fuzzy Guitar Madness (and also introduced me to openers Pissed Jeans who I quite dig) where as Sonic Youth was a beautiful outdoor summer night playing one of my ten fave albums of all time - sublime is a word that fits here.

So it bring it on bands...practice those great old tunes and get them on the road to NY.

Part two will talk about my hopes and dreams for this movement - who's out there that have enough band members still alive to pull off some of my favorite albums live front to back - I'll bring it after this weekend's NINJA Tour review from NJ. Maybe Jane's Addiction will play all of "Ritual de lo Habitual" or "Nothing's Shocking" oh boy would I dig that!

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