September 16 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
I'll keep this as short as possible. "Hell Freezes Over Tour?" Hell will freeze over before I would dream of paying anything close to the $102 price for good seats for this arena rock concert. By the way, other prices on the tour: World Music Theater, Chicago - $118, Irvine Meadows, L.A. - $115, GHB Pavilion, San Bernardino - $115, Alpine Valley, WI - $119.75, Tiger Stadium, Detroit - $100 (figures courtesy Billboard).
Oh, there were cheaper seats at The Spectrum. $77 and $52 for the upper half of the three-tiered building. And while Pink Floyd and the EJ/BJ tours pushed the upper limits of good taste in ticket pricing, these guys went way over the top. Yeh, your bad old Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album is the #2 selling record of all-time in the U.S., but big deal. In the scheme of things, you guys really don't matter that much. Other major shows over the summer included Lollapalooza at $28.50 (for 7 major acts), the H.O.R.D.E. festival for $28 (Allmans and three other big acts plus many up and comers), Moody Blues at $25 (with the whole bloody World Festival Orchestra) and Grateful Dead for $30 (a figure which the Dead's publicist told me, that raising it that high - $30, was a decision they agonized over). Page and Plant's 1995 show at the Spectrum was $25 for all seats,
My friend Steve Golden said it best: "For $102, the band better come down off of the stage - and suck my d---!" Next time you feel like spending $500 to take your spouse and two kids to a show, let me know.
Theater of Living Arts
July 25, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Australia's delightfully friendly Frente headlined this quite palatable bill at the TLA. I was told by several folks, however, to be sure and catch the openers, The Devlins. So I did.
These four fellows from Dublin, Ireland, who in early 1994 did an extensive tour opening for Sara Mclachlan, did a fine job here, playing an eight song, 40 minute moody and melodic set of tunes from their current CD, Drift (see CD reviews). Their arrangements are fairly simple yet direct and satisfying with nice layers of jamming that complement honest lyrics. Left-handed Colin and right-handed Peter Devlin and company, whose sound can broadly be described as pop (with plenty of room for entrancing acoustic and soft electric jamming), performed ballads like "I Don't Want To Be Like This" and their single, "Someone To Talk To." More upbeat songs, such as first single "I Knew That" and "Everytime You Go" bopped along nicely. The Devlins seem 'on the bubble,' poised for great popularity in the near future. Colin and Peter are already very popular with some of the younger fans, evidenced by unusually high-pitched squeals and ovations by some of the teenage girls.
20 minutes later, it was time for Frente, who brought to the stage very little equipment: bass, guitar, drumset, a few monitors and a microphone for front-girl Angie Hart. They seemed a bit overwhelmed by the near sellout, very enthusiastic crowd. This was their first American tour, sparked by their current Marvin The Album, and singles "Labour Of Love" and "Bizarre Love Triangle." Guitarist, sometime vocalist and well, basically the leader Simon Austin seemed most comfortable on stage, smiling profusely and was a friendly figure, with his almost bald head and super oversized shorts. He absolutely holds the title of "most guitar picks used in a set." A stage hand stuck at least a dozen picks to his microphone and had to add about three dozen more over the 75 minute set. Austin is an earnest, capable guitarist, laying down serious or merry electric passages, depending on the mood of the song.
The crowd really came to see winsome vocalist Angie Hart. The 22 year old with the delicate Australian-accented voice was adorable on stage. She's thin, wore a horizontally striped knit top and jeans, and short-cropped strait hair with cute little white berets by her temples. She talked extensively to the attentive crowd, many times fidgeting with her hands behind her back.
The bulk of the songs the band performed were from the current CD, with some newer and older ditties thrown in. A couple of songs were played as an acoustic duo, including New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle," a song which the fans did an impromptu Bic lighter thing which prompted Angie to stop and charmingly plead, "Now put those silly things away." After a set of tunes you could whistle and skip to, one of the encores was a neato version of Dolly Parton's 1978 hit "Here You Come Again." Speaking of covers, the end of "Lonely" flowed into a chorus of Barry White's "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love Babe."
Great G-rated pleasant pop songs that simply made my day. They made someone else's day, too. Up at the stage a mom chaperoned her two daughters. Her seven year old, who sat on the corner of the stage sang along with almost every song, and was visibly thrilled when Angie kneeled down to greet her. That really defines Frente's wide appeal. A real fun, easy-to-take show.
Devlin's set: Alone In The Dark / Almost Made You Smile / Everytime You Go / I Don't Want To Be Like This / Someone To Talk To / Necessary Evil / I Knew That / Drift (thanks to The Devlin's soundman for the list)
Frente's set: ? / Most Beautiful / ? / Testimony / Sameless / See-Believe / Labour Of Love / Lonely / "30 second ditty" / No Time / Dangerous / Bizarre Love Triangle / Discipline In Deep Water / Accidentally Kelly Street / "a teeny weeny song" / Ordinary Angels. encore: Here You Come Again / Cuscutlan (thanks to Wendy DiAddezio of Devon, PA and Susanna Hummer of Berwyn, PA for the list)
John Paul Jones
November 13, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Take perhaps the most beautiful but seldom used theater in Philadelphia. Located on the University of Penn. campus, it has a huge, ornately painted dome ceiling, pipe organs and several little balconies. Couple those classy surroundings with international vocalist, composer and three and a half octave singer/shrieker Diamanda Galás and you're in for an experience no less thrilling than a Disney ride. Add to the scene Led Zeppelin-founder and man with one of the most impressive resumes in the business (from work with McCartney, Donovan, Eno and The B.H. Surfers to multimedia work for a Mercedes project and composing The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb animation), and you have the means for an exotic, emotionally intense piece of performance art. A drummer was a third force and added well to John Payl Jones' strong bass passages.
Galás has garnished attention performing and exploring the limits of the human voice since her "Litanies of Satan" b/w "Wild Women With Steak Knives" was released in 1982. She can sing a blues tune, then quickly turn those bluesy wails into freeform, blood curdling, shrieks and hollers. Galás alternated frequently between vocals only and singing while playing a very competent blues, gospel and abstract keyboards.
Jones kept a steady and intricate bass line through most songs, sitting at the pedal steel guitar for others. His shining moment came during the short but stunning lead at the start of the barely recognizable encore of "Communication Breakdown." While some in attendance (10-20) retreated immediately after the opening Galás warbling wails, most of the super hip (young goths, U. of P. students, yuppies and aging hippies) crowd hung around. They looked deeper and found, as I did, that when all of the elements were put together, an awesome, one of a kind performance had enveloped them.
Galás didn't introduce any songs, or mention the new album, which would've made the crowd feel a bit more involved and comfortable with some of the abstract goings-on. I imagine few knew that one of the selections "You Gotta Move" was an Elmore James blues number, and "Dark End Of The Street" was made famous by Percy Sledge. Galás haunting horror version bared little resemblance. Probably the best thing upon reflecting on the evening, was the absence of Zeppelin fans screaming 'Black Dog" and "Whole Lotta Love." For that, I was grateful.
October 5-7, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Way back on December 6, 1968, The Grateful Dead performed their first show at the Spectrum, appearing at the Quaker City Rock Festival with Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly. October 7, 1994 was the band's unprecedented 50th appearance at the hall. It is by far the most shows performed in the building. Next most prolific is Springsteen (27), Billy Joel and Yes (25), Aerosmith (19), Elton John and Neil Diamond (18) and Van Halen (17). Couple that with the fact that The Dead have also done five shows at the Philadelphia Civic Center, two at JFK Stadium, four just out of the city limits at the Tower Theater in 1976 as well as the Electric Factory in 1969, Drexel University Auditorium and opening for Hendrix at Temple University Stadium in 1970, (and three more this March), and they've amassed well over 60 shows in this town.
To commemorate the 50th Spectrum show, a short ceremony was coordinated by Spectrum management and The Dead's Dennis McNally. Proclaimed respectfully by ex-Bay Area resident and popular Philadelphia DJ and Dead Head Pierre Robert, a beautiful tye dye banner from Not Fade Away Graphics was lowered from the rafters. It had the famous Alembic skull (or "skull and lightning" if you like) with the Liberty Bell replacing the lightning bolt. 50 stars surround the skull on this gorgeous banner that hangs amongst other Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Bobby Clarke.
All three shows had special segments of excellent song selection and superior playing as well as lulls and soft spots. And no friends, they didn't repeat a single song in three shows. When the band trotted out on stage for the first show, dozens of balloons covered the stage (they came from the crowd, not the band). Co-frontman Bob Weir waved the always present Steve Parrish over to pop one. Then another. Then Parrish began to walk away and Weir would point to another one, and another one. Finally, Parrish looked at him as if to say "What the fu--?" Weir patted him on the back as he, Parrish and Garcia all laughed. They opened with a crisp "Jackstraw," followed by "Friend Of The Devil," during which bassist Phil Lesh sheepishly cartooned at himself as a harmless beach ball bonked him square on the head. Usually Weir breaks out an acoustic guitar once a night, and for this run of shows, he showcased it on "Eternity" the first night, "Easy Answers" the second and Marty Robbins' 1959 hit "El Paso," the third.
Highlights of the Wednesday, October 5th show included the second set pre-drums selection. It opened with a blast with the powerful (former Pig Pen-led) oldie "Midnight Hour," followed unexpectedly by the finger-picken' "Cumberland Blues," although the latter wasn't as smokin' as it should have been. A fine "Playin' In The band" jammed on while old San Francisco Fillmore/Avalon poster images moved about on the large round screen behind the band. Their dreamy, somewhat heavenly arrangements of screens and lovely colored curtains around the stage area supply a nice ambiance enhancement, even in a hockey rink. Problem is, ya better sit in the center, even in the back. You really can miss a lot if you are on the side.
The timing and precision of The Dead's light show is still unparalleled as are the presence of several spotlight operators in special chairs over the stage. Their Mac fractals and morphing program images on the main screen are impeccable too, often resembling the world's best and most complex screen saver. Also notable at the first show was Garcia's choice to stay on-stage and jam with the drummers, cutting his mid-second set rest very short. He only left for a couple of moments. An inspired version of ballad "Standing On The Moon" and return of Dylan's "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)" as a rousing encore were also notable.
The second show's first set was a bit on the subdued side with standouts being opener "Half-Step Miss. Uptown Toodeloo," the new Phil tune "If The Shoe Fits" and Weir's always rousing version of "When I Paint My Masterpiece." The second set cooked. The crowd pleasing combo of "China Cat/I Know You Rider" opened the set, Weir's "The sun's gonna shine in my backdoor someday" and Garcia's "I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train," bringing the house down. Vince's contemporary selection "Way To Go Home" was next. A real treat, the very popular, never performed in Philadelphia (at least not in 24 years, if then) "New Speedway Boogie" was offered, Jerry enjoying both the opportunity to kick out several extended jams along with classic vocals. That flowed into "Truckin'," which was basically a sing-along for 19,000. "Wharf Rat" was distinctly crisp and slightly upbeat from its usual plodding pace.
And the final show, the big one, the 50th - a killer opener? Nah. Five minutes after the unveiling of the commemorative banner, the band came out on-stage and did not acknowledge it one bit. They simply opened with a satisfactory but uneventful opener "Feel Like A Stranger." I don't know why I was surprised. By now I should know that The Dead rarely speak from the stage or go out of "the lines they have drawn." They do what they do, apparently feeling that all they need to say and communicate is contained in their songs. Though it's impressive that it's more or less true, it's also a bit disappointing that there was no acknowledgment, even after approximately one million (60 shows X approx. 17,000 for each) tickets have been torn for The Grateful Dead in Philadelphia.
Back to the show (and off my soapbox). The first set (as do most of their sets), included several musical styles. The jazzy jamming of "Feel Like A Stranger" was followed by the mellow noodling of "Sugaree," blues and slide jamming of "The Same Thing," the electrified country twang of "Brown Eyed Women," and also included spirited, psychedelic versions only the Dead can emote in "Tennessee Jed" and set closer "The Music Never Stopped."
The second set pre-drum selections were all modern day choices. "Victim Or The Crime," the brand new positive and springy "Samba In The Rain," "Foolish Heart" and "Corrina" were rolled past our brains, fitting together quite nicely. Post-drums included Weir's fine treatment of The Stones' "The Last Time," and McCartney's "That Would Be Something," followed by a favorite of both young and old, "Morning Dew." Garcia really layed on the vocals at the end on the "I guess it doesn't matter anyway" part, repeating it with spirit again and again leaving the crowd in awe. After the long rescendo of the powerful ending jam, the last note crashed down. A final "Johnny B. Goode" encore sent us on our way...
October 6- Set 1: Half Step/ New Minglewood Blues/ Fenario/ If The Shoe Fits/ When I Paint My Masterpiece/ Ramble On Rose/ Easy Answers/ Don't Ease Me In. Set 2: China Cat/ I Know You Rider/ Way To Go Home/ New Speedway Boogie/ Truckin'/ Drums/ Space/ The Other One/ Wharf Rat/ Good Lovin'. e: Liberty
October 7- Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger/ Sugaree/ The Same Thing/ Brown Eyed Women/ El Paso/ Tennessee Jed/ Music Never Stopped Set 2: Victim Or The Crime/ Samba In The Rain/ Foolish Heart/ Corrina/ Drums/ Space/ The Last Time/ That Would Be Something/ Morning Dew. e: Johnny B. Goode
Mann Music Center
August 28, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
The third annual Hordes Of Rock Developing Everywhere descended upon Philadelphia's medium-large size shed, The Mann Music Center. In a season where Floyd, Lollapalooza and Woodstock '94 had come and gone, this late August Sunday show was kind of an 'end of the summer/return to college blowout' for many.
This was certainly a unique event. Aside from the main stage which boasted a lineup of The Allman Brothers, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd and God Street Wine, as well as a second stage offering Rusted Root, The Authority and The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, there were approximately 25 vendors.
The second stage was set to one side of a large level area that rests atop the amphitheater's sloped lawn. The vendors formed a long semicircle as they lined the upper reaches of the lawn. Vendors/public awareness tables included Artworks (original T-shirts), Jungle Juices & Iced Herbal Quenchers (Smart Drinks) and Soho, New York's Synchro Energizer (one could get their brain tuned with five minute/$3.00 energizer sessions. Bob Weir and Ram Dass have been quoted about it). There were also Guatemalan/tye dye/ dead head vendors as well as various food booths and jewelry/accessory tents.
I strolled in at about 2:00, an hour before God Street Wine was to take the main stage. There were possibly 1000 people inside and 5000 more tailgating in the grassy parking lot. All day folks would slowly file in arriving at a strategic time based on how much one wanted to see before the legendary original southern rockers, The Allman Brothers Band. I leisurely wandered about up at the top, and I still don't know if I saw Cycomoto Goat or Little Sister on the second stage when I first arrived.
Just before 3:00, the guards let all the folks that were there fill up the seats down in front for God Street Wine. The band did a fine set, the five piece group reminiscent of Phish and The Allmans with their peppy improvisational guitars. They played in front of a gorgeous purple, blue and green H.O.R.D.E. curtain with a tall blue rhino backdrop hanging to its left and a tall blue elephant backdrop hanging to its right. It was nice to let folks with poor seats (or general admission lawn seats), sit in the front. Then, when people came for their seats later, the early birds gallantly relinquished them. Regarding this gesture, I was reminded that San Francisco's Bill Graham Presents were partial promoters of this show.
Back up on top again, I meandered over to the bright yellow Jimi Hendrix "On The Road Again - University Tour 1994" tractor-trailer that had painted on it a huge image in purple and white of Jimi. Inside were several door-sized reproductions of old Jimi photos with narrative descriptions. At the back of the trailer was "The Electric Church," which was in reality several pipes that acted as an infrared motivated sampling machine. If you put your hand over the pipes, they outputted "Foxy Lady," "All Along The Watchtower" and other favorites.
I went back to the main stage for Colorado's Big Head Todd (Todd Park Mohr) & The Monsters (bassist Rob Squires and drummer Brian Nevin). The trio played for about an hour, led by saxophonist/pianist turned guitarist and lead vocalist Todd. Their set included "Bittersweet," "Circle," Zeppelin's "Tangerine" and "Sister Sweetly." They were good, but needed more of a sparkling charisma to really win over the crowd. I, however, welcomed their non-rock star persona.
Up at stage two again, I watched some of the raucous, rockin' of The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies. Everyone was having fun frolicking around as there was plenty to see and do and buy. By the time 6:00 rolled around, a large core of fans were settling into their seats in preparation for Blues Traveler and The Allmans.
Guitarist Chan Kinchla and mouth harpist extraordinaire John Popper, lead Blues Traveler. The East Coast band has done years of successful well-received large club dates, traveling in the same circles as other "Grateful Dead - The Next Generation" bands like the Spin Docs, Solar Circus and Phish. Their relentless jamming highlighted by Kinchla's scintillating guitar jams and John Popper's powerful blues jamboree harmonica somehow rose to higher and higher energy levels. Popper is a large, interesting figure on stage, coming out with a wide-brimmed hat and a ten pocket hunting vest from where many useful baubles and items (flashlight, keys, clock, chains, wallet) were hung. Popper also played guitar at times and Dickie Betts' son Duane Betts jammed with the band for a session. Blues Traveler jammed for almost two hours in front of a huge red and blue swirling backdrop that featured a gigantic image of their famous joint smoking cat mascot in the center.
As we went back to the top for refreshments one last time before the headliners came out, I was happy to have caught my favorite small stage band of the day, Rusted Root. The Pittsburgh band sound somewhat resembled modern day David Byrne, the seven piece percussion/ guitar/flute driven band doing songs from their When I Woke CD including the infectious "Send Me On My Way." They were chock full of talent and really caused a large crowd to gather, pleasantly serenading us in front of the "Welcome Fellow Creatures" backdrop that hung behind the second stage. Unfortunately, I had to cut my enjoyment of Rusted Root short in order to get ready for the big boys, Chairmen of the H.O.R.D.E., The Allman Brothers.
Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Warren Haynes, Jaimo & Butch Trucks were definitely "on." After opening with a song from the current Where It All Begins CD, they quickly established their musical muscle and superiority with versions of "Statesboro Blues" and "Blue Sky," as long and as fine as any version done in the past 20 years. Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts stand at the top of the heap of the Southern electric and slide guitar players. Haynes is now entrenched as an Allman mainstay and Betts, looked lean and mean with the trademark long hair, Marlboro Man face, sleeveless denim jacket, visible tattoos and large cowboy hat. Gregg Allman was also healthy and in good form, singing as well as jamming robustly on the piano, organ and coming out front to play guitar a couple of times. Duane Betts also jammed on guitar from time to time. Other songs from the current LP were included like "No One To Run With," as was old blues number "The Same Thing." Classic Allman Brothers tunes rearing their heads were a supercharged "Jessica," a 30 minute "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" and perhaps the recipient of the biggest ovation of all, "Midnight Rider." Endurance was unquestionably displayed as the band can seemingly jam and play forever, smoothly sharing their progressive rock talents with us. As the Rolling Stones have shown everyone that they are still a force both live and on record in 1994, The Allman Brothers can't be ignored as they legitimately have done the same thing.
The whole event ran like clockwork. Oh yeh, and the ticket price for ten bands and a sideshow - $28.00. Hear that, Eagles tour promoters?
September 16, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Luscious has opened for The Beastie Boys (drummer Kate Schellenbach was an original Beastie), Bettie Serveert, Urge Overkill and good friends - The Breeders. Now the four fresh and fashionably unfashionable females of modern urban funk have stimulated enough interest to headline their own tour. And their show was great fun. Musically unique and full of positive personalities on stage, Luscious Jackson gets a big "thumbs-up" from li'l-ol'-me. There was an opening act, though...
At 8:00, Cake Like, a New York group, made up of three amiable, post-college-girl-next-door types performed a fine 35 minute, nine song set. Their music consisted of slow, dissonant arrangements with entrancing tribal drumming and some passages of mild thrash. Some songs, like "Abraham Lincoln," had a Sonic Youth sound to them. Their ominous and slightly numbing essence was enjoyable. They received good crowd response, and I hope they gain more notoriety.
Luscious Jackson came on at about 9:00 to a full and ardent house. Bassist/lead vocalist Jill, guitarist/vocalist Gabby, keyboardist Viv and drummer Kate acknowledged the crowd with smiles, waves and a couple of words with the folks down in front. A male DJ was also visible toward the rear of the stage. They started with drum-heavy "Péle Merengue," an upbeat, groovy number short on lyrics but great at setting an energetic, partying mood. The New York foursome (well, three out of four), absolutely kicked it out with a sound and attitude all their own. Their combination of New York City funk, hip hop, mild rap and subdued alternative modern rock is a neat formula (as if they pre-defined a "formula"). And of course, actually experiencing the reality of their unique sound is far better than my attempts to describe it. Songs were taken almost exclusively from their current Natural Ingredients and 1992 EP In Search Of Manny, including "City Song," "Angel," "Strongman" and "Rollin'." The attitudes are real. Not angry women, just real people. The girls are friendly on-stage, (short-cropped keyboardist Viv smiled throughout the set), welcoming happy moshers to climb on-stage, quickly nod to or shake hands with the girls, take a bow and swan dive back into the grooving dance floor. At one point, while the sampling machine did most of the work in the back, Kate came down from her drumset and the girls formed kind of a chorus line with a couple of proud female audience participants. Luscious had such a friendly aura, and they were also clearly in control of the chaos. There were no real security guards at the stage, just the Troc's Sloan, who more often than not gently helped young ladies climb on-stage and lightly prodded exuberant males to jump back in the pit after a few seconds. There was joyous energy and a little pot smoke around, but no one appeared over-the-edge. The kids who did climb on-stage respected the band. Those folks who threw a kind word to one of the girls (who actually would slickly return the kind word, even during a song), knew their place and exited quickly. Not once did anyone try to grab Luscious' instruments, mike stands or bodies. One stagediver did jump off with the band's setlist stuck to her sneaker. A kid in the front row kindly passed it back to Jill - in two pieces. No problem.
Many times, a group that relies on samples on their record can't translate into a credible live act. Luscious Jackson was very credible and terribly innovative. I hope they "keep on keepin' on," on their own terms.
Luscious Jackson's set: Péle Merengue / Energy Sucker / Bam Bam / Daughters of the Kaos / Strongman / Here / Let Yourself Get Down / Life of Leisure / City Song / Rock Freak / Angel / Deep Shag / Rollin' / Keep On Rockin' It / Surprise. (thanks to the man at the soundboard for the list)
Jim Rose Circus Sideshow,
December 11, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails have been around for some time now. They've created a stir with their demonic emotion-driven brand of modern industrial rock. "Setting the rock 'n roll trend for the next ten years," some have said. They've toured extensively over the last couple of years, playing the small club circuit, then moving on to the medium-sized halls and theaters. In 1994, NIN was heard on Top-40 radio "Closer" spent well over 20 weeks in the Billboard "Hot 100" and wound up #12 Billboard on the "Hot Modern Rock Tracks" chart for the year. NIN's most recent album, Downward Spiral was Billboard's #57 album of the year, reaching a peak at #2. I, like thousands of others was seeing them for the first time.
Opening the show was an angry threesome known as Marilyn Manson. I had heard of the stir they created in Utah. Apparently, the city of Salt Lake City wouldn't let Marilyn Manson open for NIN due to previous behavior and nudity situations at previous concerts. A Mormon bible was allegedly ripped up that night, however, when Trent invited the lead singer on-stage. Marilyn Manson is a three-man outfit who go for shock value as opposed to talent. The keyboardist went out of his way to look demented as possible and the guitarist had the requisite brightly colored hair. And Marilyn, well, had stringy hair, a choker, black nail polish, long face and is apparently androgynous. They spewed, shrieked and taunted for about 30 minutes.
I was looking forward the Jim Rose's Circus Sideshow. They'd become somewhat legendary after their Lollapalooza 92 appearance and video that was spread around afterward. Jim Rose has developed, basically, an old-fashioned freak show and brought it to a rock audience. Though toned-down for this big-time family-type concert, there was no frontal nudity or body fluids involved, but parents chaperoning teen Reznor fans must've been shocked to see knives walked on, razor blades swallowed, glass chewed, raccoon trap snapped on a hand, a human dart board, a scorpion in the face and weights suspended from sensitive body parts. I thought it was fascinating, and what later would be a raging mosh-pit was now a bunch of transfixed faces, both from the crowd and security.
Just before Nine Inch Nails came out, the photographer's term changed. Due to the increasing excitement and the huge popularity with Trent, and due to the fact that the whole sold-out general admission floor was squashed into space of the front half only, we had only two songs in which to squeeze our shutters. It was a madhouse. The natives in the mosh-pit were getting restless, excited and vocal. When a preliminary curtain was raised leaving the silhouetted figure of Trent behind it, the place went nuts. That doubled when he came out to a driving onslaught of technical hard-core. I'd never witnessed so much equipment-breaking, equipment-tossing, and overall I'm-gonna-perform-like-it's-my-last-show-ever attitude. For that alone, Reznor should be applauded. As an old song lyric goes, "Anyone who sweats like that must be all right." Apparently, he breaks this many instruments every night, and a crew member just does a lot of guitar-fixing. The music? Well I found the deep industrial instrumental passages to be excellent - stirring and powerful. Reznor's vocal antics were also a key tool in the presentation. I did find myself wishing for the occasional ballad. I still don't know if that's my age coming through, or a real need for a more multi-dimensional show. The sold-out house was absolutely enamored with songs like "Down In It," "Head Like A Hole," "Happiness In Slavery" (which ended with a guitar kamikaze) and "March Of The Pigs" (after which he dove into the audience). The multitudes were not happy until the first encore, "Closer" where they all got to sing "I want to fu-- you like an animal" with Trent. Then, it was okay to go home.
Upper Darby, PA
October 21, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Boy, time does march on, doesn't it? It seems like only yesterday that Chrissie Hynde, the pride of Akron, OH broke out in the then-fledgling world of modern rock. Now, at 43, lead singer/songwriter/ guitarist Hynde, in support of the Last Of The Independents LP, still leads a cohesive touring rock band. This was The Pretenders second visit to Philadelphia in only five months.
Chicago trio Material Issue opened the show. Led by vocalist/guitarist Jim Ellison, they did a fine, 50 minute set of American party rock. Though not overly spectacular, the band moved from tune to tune, one of the finest being the excellent "Kim The Waitress" found on their current live EP, Goin' Through Your Purse. Also included were "The Fan," "Funny Feeling," "One Simple Word" and "What Girls Want." Material Issue is an amusing ensemble reminding me of Cheap Trick and The Knack, fun rock 'n roll not to be taken too seriously.
At 9:00, led by Hynde, who wore a long sleeve white shirt and silver tights, and wielded a weathered baby blue guitar, The Pretenders were greeted quite enthusiastically by the almost-full house. With original drummer Martin Chambers behind her, Chrissie wasted no time in getting to the music. "Are you ready for us?" she asked. "We're ready for you." They kicked right into an excellent and energetic opener -- the popular "Night In My Veins." I was mildly surprised that there was no moshing, even in the general admission "room to move" area of the floor.
Even 12 years after the death of original guitar player extraordinare James Honeyman-Scott, it's hard not to compare the current guitarist, Adam Seymour to him. I'd give him an eight on a scale of one to ten, shaking and twisting his guitar seemingly to squeeze out of it the maximum possible sound. The bass and keyboard players were excellent and Chamber added quite a bit of personality, pizzazz and skin-pounding, as well as back-up vocals. But the bulk of attention belonged to, as it always has, Chrissie Hynde. Though The Pretenders had several lean years in the last ten, Hynde is one of the few with the chutzpah to survive to loss of half her band (Honeyman-Scott and original bassist Pete Farndon). Hynde, with her trademark just-a-little-too-long bangs over her eyes offered career-spanning crowd pleaser after crowd pleaser, augmented by fine new selections. She can be a rock 'n roll bad grrrl as in 1979's "Precious," or a sweet, soaring balladeer, as in the poignant love song "I'll Stand By You" and the old song The Persuaders made big, "Thin Line Between Love And Hate." In between, were many (21 songs in all) uptempo, interestingly arranged bouncy yet hard-edged pop songs. The band ran through such favorites as "Talk Of The Town," "My City Was Gone," "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Kid," after which she said, "Isn't it great to have Martin back?" The big ovation answered the question. A new song was "dedicated to all the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) members. Smoking versions of "Message Of Love" and "Middle Of The Road" were offered, the latter beginning with lots of drum antics and containing the familiar Hynde harmonica segment. Excellent set, and really - a lot of fun. And though the sound at The Tower, shall we say, sucked, The Pretenders certainly didn't.
Rolling Stones, Blind Melon
September 22-23, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Let's start out with superlatives like peerless, consummate and incomparable, and go from there. An incredible 31 years since their first tour, 30 dates with The Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley in the fall of 1963, The Rolling Stones and their "Voodoo Lounge" tour, their first in five years, marched into Philadelphia. They aren't geriatrics who need to be propped up and take frequent rests. They are a first-class, first-rate ass-kickin' band with a technologically up to date show. In fact, I came away with the utmost respect for The Stones, as they are still the measuring stick to which all other large touring acts can compare themselves. At 51, Mick Jagger is in better shape than almost any performer I've ever seen. What made it even more amazing was the wicked hand Mother Nature dealt for the Stones' opening night performance.
It rained. No, it didn't just rain, it was a full-fledged, wind-driven Noreaster, a term for a large East Coast storm that grabs moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and throws it back inland, where Canadian and Gulf Of Mexico air are colliding. While the back half of the stage was somewhat covered (drummer Charlie Watts and keyboardist Chuck Leavell remained rather dry), the frontmen (Jagger, Richards, Wood and Darryl Jones) played, sang and ran back and forth soaking wet. I and many thousands of others in a crowd that ranged in age from six to sixty were covered in plastic from head to toe.
Oh yeh, Blind Melon was there, too. Playing an unmemorable set, it was obvious that they'd be a better gig to see at a small theater than a cavernous stadium. Lead singer Shannon Hoon, spent a lot of time on the ground, swooshing water around the stage and rolling in puddles like Curly of The Three Stooges. By the time The Stones came on, one had totally forgotten that there was even an opening act.
At 9:45, it was time. As huge flame jets shot out from the top of the giant 90 foot chrome stage, Mick, Keith, Ronnie and the rest ambled out and jumped into their first American single (reaching #48 in 1964), "Not Fade Away." Mick sported a long white jacket and black hat, resembling a classy pimp, a look Mick has often sported. The next night, he'd come out in an expensive black leather jacket. Keith wore jeans and a casual black sportjacket and Ronnie, a long red coat (the next night- a long beige one). On his Gibson, he had a beautiful, wide black guitar strap with white skeletons on it. He also showed that he has truly perfected the art of smoking cigarettes and playing a super lead guitar in the pouring rain. Boom, they changed gears, easing into 1972's "Tumbling Dice." The Stones sounded hard, crisp and perfect. Jagger, confident of the equipment and band behind him, made use of every inch of the 220 foot stage, sashaying about with more moves than an Eric Allen 95 yard interception touchdown run previously made in the same stadium. Next up was new powerhouse "You Got Me Rockin'." It became apparent that the new songs weren't just filler in-between the hits, they were a welcome and integral part of the show. 1979's "Shattered" was next, Mick providing excellent vocals with Wood and Richards nailing it with their stinging guitar work. Charlie, of course, didn't miss a beat. Mick then took off his sopping wet coat, whipping it back and forth like a bull fighter before tossing it backstage to reveal a vest, tie and white shirt. He approached the mike and almost skipped a song as he said, "Okay, we're gonna do a new one, it's called, uh...what? Oh, we'll do one from Exile first." It was "Rocks Off" which was followed by Voodoo Lounge's "Sparks Will Fly."
Behind the band were two state of the art diamond vision screens, sometimes showing split live footage, sometimes showing different filmclips to accompany the music and sometimes showing absolutely stupendous 3D virtual reality animation, often featuring The Stones' tongue logo in all sorts of movements. A nice, flashy Xmas light effect nicely accompanied "Sparks Will Fly." "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," with a monster Keith guitar solo followed. Keith looked healthy, spirited, and played with the utmost professionalism, always kindly bowing and tipping his hat to the crowd after they responded to him. Mick acknowledged the wind and the rain saying stuff like, "I feel a bit wet in me knickers" and "I know it's kind of soggy, but I know it won't dampen your spirits."
The Stones did 23 songs in all, not shortening the show at all in the storm. There were the expected "Brown Sugar" and encore "Jumping Jack Flash," and the unexpected "Memory Motel" (Mick on piano, Keith crooning "She's got a mind of her own and she knows how to use it"), and Keith's "Before They Make Me Run." Other highlights were Jagger's introduction of the band, where Charlie Watts got a standing ovation, "Honky Tonk Women," which was augmented by lots of old soft and hard-core porn video images interspersed with shots of Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe and women in the front rows, and also had a fine Chuck Leavell piano solo.
The last six songs were flawless and powerful. A wall of entertainment few, if any could match. The lead single of Voodoo Lounge "Love Is Strong," already vintage Stones music, was performed in front of several giant inflatable floats. Next was perhaps the climax of the show. It was a screaming version of "Monkey Man," led by Mick and vocalist Lisa Fisher. With excellent dancing and shrieking vocals more powerful than Floyd's "Great Gig In The Sky" or The Stones own "Gimme Shelter," cries of "I'm A Monkey" brought the house down.
The second show was similar (but rain free), with only three selections changing, making the setlist just a smidge better. "Memory Motel" was traded for an all-time favorite "Wild Horses," "It's All Over Now" from the first night turned into "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" and in Keith's spot, "Before They Make Me Run" was switched to "Happy."
Song for song, The Rolling Stones proved who's still tops. At 50+ years old, their reputation as "the world's greatest rock 'n roll band" is very much intact.
*=1st show, **=2nd show
Rusted Root, Dag
January 24, 1995
Theater of Living Arts
Review by Alan Sheckter
I, as many others around the country became familiar with Pittsburgh's eclectic Rusted Root when they appeared at the 1994 H.O.R.D.E. festival with the Allman Brothers, Blues Traveler and Big Head Todd. This wasn't the run of the mill angst-filled, sonic-guitared band. No, the seven-piece ensemble is a celebration in acoustic guitars, traditional percussion sounds, voice and dance. Together, they achieve a "one-ness" with the crowd that makes them the cream of the crop of what I call "The Grateful Dead - Next Generation" bands. Now, with the current album When I Woke and an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien causing a commotion, The Root embarked on their own tour, including their first appearances on the west coast. The 850 person capacity theater was a solid sell-out. First, however, the bohemian twenty-to-fortysomething crowd was treated to opening band, DAG.
Led by Bobby Patterson, a legitimate heartthrob, the girls tell me, the North Carolina-formed five piece band, surprised the crowd with their completely unique new-rock-meets-70s-funk sound. Go see 'em. Think of your favorite Sly & The Family Stone song, put some modern rock to it, add Patterson's falsetto and you'll enjoy letting the funky waves wash over you...
Fifteen minutes later, the assemblage was ready for Rusted Root. There was an instant spark of joy when the band broke into opening number, "Martyr," the audience dancing with abandon to The Root's hypnotic rhythms. Their most successful song, "Send Me On My Way" was next, highlighted by John Buynak's wooden flute jams. Michael Glabicki is kind of the commanding figure, singing lead vocals and joyously playing guitar. Backup vocalists Liz Berlin and Jenn Werttz (Jenn came on-stage with a cup of hot tea, not the normal rock 'n roll beer) add lots of dimensions with several tambourines, bells, spoons and even a washboard. A bassist, conventional drummer and bongo-and-other-percussion player round out the septet. Other songs performed included "Drum Trip" and "Ecstasy," "Cat Turned Blue," "Food And Creative Love" and "Back To The Earth." Rusted Root turned a Tuesday night out into a special event.
Rusted Root's set: Martyr / Send Me On My Way / Lost In A Crowd / Cat Turned Blue / Big Bird / Rain / Food & Creative Love / ? / Tree / Crues Sun / Primal / Laugh As The Sun / Drum Trip / Ecstasy e: Back To The Earth / Scattered.
August 26, 1994
Review by Alan Sheckter
Way back on February 16, 1974, this then 14 year old reviewer saw Yes at the Spectrum. In those days, the band, propelled by The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge, were very heavy hitters in the world of seventies progressive radio. And the ticket price for that sold-out show: $5.50.
20 years later, several things have changed in the world of Yes. Most noticeable to me was this: Even though Philadelphia has always been a huge supporter of Yes, and the band has a fine current LP, Talk, and even though the show was on a Friday night, there were maybe as many as 10,000 people there in the 19,000 capacity arena. Another thing that also always seems to change with Yes is their personnel. This time it was identical to the 1983-1988 lineup and included Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Alan White, Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye.
They promoted a true quadraphonic sound. The hype before the show was that Yes would broadcast an FM frequency from the stage, and if you brought a Walkman to the show and tuned it in, the sound in the arena would be accentuated by the separate FM sounds. Very few people wore headphones, and while the idea was cool, it was kind of forgotten by the end of the show.
Jon, the voice of Yes, sang wonderfully, played a bit of acoustic guitar and small hand-held percussion instruments, and also exhibited an angelic, transcendental appearance with flowing long hair and a white outfit that was a cross between a bathrobe, toga and judo uniform. He also was a bit spiritual, making comments like, "I know for sure that our souls are eternal" before starting into a stirring "Your Move" which jumped into a driving, rocked-out "I've Seen All Good People." At another point, when introducing "Real Love," Jon relayed the idea that "Earth music, music and the sky, music that surrounds us every day, that music is real - real love."
Chris Squire, the only original member of Yes (who formed in London in 1968) who has never left the band, was a commanding presence on bass. He's a big man in stature and musical output, taking lead riffs several times, most notably during "Heart Of The Sunrise." He wore big knee-high mukluk boots and stomped around, many times stomping over to guitarist Rabin or turning his attention to the folks in the front rows.
South African guitarist Trevor Rabin did a splendid job on guitar, although his breathing patterns were probably a bit stressed by his two-sizes-too-small black leather pants. He did all the traditional guitar riffs you would expect and added his own flair to extended guitar passages.
Drummer Alan White, in Yes since 1972, did a fine job as the solo drummer. Tony Kaye's keyboards were also more than satisfactory, hitting all the right notes at the right times. Kaye was actually the original keyboardist, before the more famous and celebrated Rick Wakeman.
The band displayed fine customary layers of sound, accented visually by a nice multi-tiered stage setup that included a screen/backdrop with moving artistic slides and patterns, and smoke machines. The first four or five songs were okay, with 80s FM-classic "Rhythm of Lve" receiving a big ovation. Then the band and the crowd seemed to come alive with classics like "Owner Of A Lonely Heart," an extended, dreamy "And You And I" and "Changes" where Trevor sang lead sounding almost like Jon Anderson. The last two songs of the set were from the new album, but were definitely winners as they were performed.
The encore started out as expected with a rousing "Roundabout," but flowed into Hendrix-like riffs of "The Star Spangled Banner" and finally into half of "Purple Haze."
A good show and Yes is not washed up, though guitar virtuoso Steve Howe and expert keyboardist Rick Wakeman were surely missed.
Yes' set: Perpetual Change (instrumental introduction) -> The Calling / I Am Waiting / Rhythm Of Love / Hearts / Real Love / Changes / Heart Of The Sunrise / Owner Of A Lonely Heart / And You And I / Where Will You Be? / I've Seen All Good People / Walls / Endless Dream. Encores: Roundabout / Purple Haze (thanks to Adam Zion @cellar.org for the list)