Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ten Shows: Part II

Part II in a, I don't know, maybe 5 or 6 part blog post...? To read the original post, look over to the right over there- yeah, right there. The one that says "Ten Shows: Part I"

The Dead Weather, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR         7/24/2010
No, this isn’t some Grateful Dead tribute band; it’s a Jack White band. Jack White usually plays guitar. Jack White plays drums in the Dead Weather. Jack White is fucking awesome.
I just knew this show was going to be good. First off, it was at the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland, a beautifully reappointed dance hall replete with massive springs supporting the vast wooden floor (you can see the springs from the bar, Ringler’s, situated directly downstairs.) The floor gives slightly as you walk about the place, an odd sensation for a seemingly sound construction. If a crowd gets especially frenzied during a performance the entire place will bounce dramatically, creating an almost single entity of the audience as the crowd rolls and bounces on the mechanically enhanced floor.  Supposedly it’s the only one of its kind in the entire country.
A mediocre opener warmed the crowd up for entirely too long, and as the house lights dimmed following an even longer intermission, the crowd was eager, stomping and cheering in attempt to lull White from whatever backstage activities he was engaged.
The Dead Weather put on a show that epitomizes what a rock and roll concert is all about. Cranking out a fiery, nearly 2 hour set that failed to let up, the audience almost struggled to keep pace. It didn’t matter that I barely knew the material—I had picked up their 2nd album, Sea of Cowards, just a week prior. It was rock and roll, and yes, I liked it. Alison Mosshart , The Dead Weather’s front-woman, aroused  the black-clad, rock star swagger of any number of her forbears. She evoked the ghosts of Morrison and Joplin as she belted out song after song with a casual, confident intensity. She cussed, she drank, she smoked, and she even spat on the stage! Wow! The way she strutted about with that microphone in hand… I think I was in love.
Jack left his perch behind the drums late in the show, the band rotating instruments thus bringing him up on guitar, much to the squealing delight of the audience. Have I mentioned Jack White is fucking awesome? Like some freak birth spawned from a coupling of Hendrix and Page, Jack White truly makes it looks easy, pounding out a dirty, bluesy racket that sounds familiar yet innovative all in the same riff. The intensity built exponentially as White brought the show its climax, a blur of sweat and wound-nickel glimmering off the body of his dime-store guitar.  I swear there were vapor trails on stage as the set wrapped up, my ears ringing in painful delight.
I stirred late the following morning, and after a cup of coffee made my way to my downstairs office and read the morning paper. I gazed upon my gloss-black Gibson Les Paul Studio, admiring its lines for a moment before lifting it from its perch upon the basement wall. I didn’t play it, but rather returned it to its hangar and went about my day.
Because really, after hearing Jack White play live, what’s the point?

The Doors of the 21st Century, Kodak Theatre, Hollywood, CA   12/31/2003
It had become a sort of tradition in the late 90’s-early 2000’s for my wife and I—and whatever friends were game— to head to the Bay area for New Year’s Eve. It was always centered on catching some incarnation of the former members of the Grateful Dead at places like The Warfield or the Henry J. Kaiser arena. When I saw that Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger were doing a sort of Doors reincarnation/tribute for New Year’s with none other than Ian Astbury of The Cult on vocals, well, shit, how could we miss an opportunity like that?
Plus the show was in Hollywood—a mere 20-30 minute drive (depending on traffic of course) from behind The Orange Curtain.
Thus we decided to celebrate that New Year in true L.A. style, reserving a decadent room at the Renaissance Hotel adjacent to the Kodak (now Dolby) theatre in downtown Hollywood. It’s that little place where they do the Academy Awards and whatnot. Of course dropping my ’97 Civic with a valet in front of one of the more posh hotels in Hollywood was a bit… humiliating, but I guess in a town as fake as L.A., really, who gives a crap?
After some pre-game drinks in the lobby and a stroll around the Hollywood and Highland Center we headed to the show. The Kodak is a fabulous (and I mean fabulous) theatre; television doesn’t do it justice. The architecture, appointments, and layout of the place make for a great concert experience and there’s literally not a bad seat in the house.  Even in the cheap seats up near the rafters and belfry the sound and view is great.
Opening with a somewhat-lazy version of Peace Frog, the Doors of the 21st Century tore through a respectably long set of the band’s classics, even playing the album L.A. Woman from top to bottom, which comprised over 1/3 of the show. Ian Astbury did his best to evoke the Lizard King that night, taunting the audience at times (“C’mon L.A.! This is your band!”) to discussing drugs (“More cocaine for the gentleman in the front row!”) to outright vulgar tirades which included replacing a key word in a line from Backdoor Man with an intimate part of the female anatomy. It went something like:  I’ll eat more (fill in the blank) any man ever seen!” Because, you know, he’s a backdoor man.
At times Ian tried just a little too hard, blowing out his voice and rasping through a good portion of the set. Regardless, they brought down the house in epic style, ringing in 2004 and what ended up being our last year in California. Too many Heinekens later I was more than happy to have dropped such a fair sum of money on the hotel next door.
I was saddened to learn of Ray Manzarek’s passing just a few weeks ago.  But you know what they say about rock n’ roll heaven: they have a hell of a band.