Tag Archives: DTE Energy Music Theater

Classic rock and writer’s block

20 Jul

This is the Age of the Great Blog Revival. Or at least the Week.

Three of the blogs I follow – Defending Axl RoseEvery Record Tells a Story and Soul Searching at Starbucks – recently posted new content after several days/weeks/months of silence. They inspired me to find out how much I remember about WordPress.

Officially, I put the blog aside a couple of years ago to focus on fiction. I also believed I’d exhausted my organizing principle: how, in the space of a generation, rock music has gone from rebellious teens giving their parents the proverbial finger to a great way for middle-aged suburbanites to bond with their kids. And after five years, my readership numbers were way down. Fewer and fewer people appreciated my humblebragging about being fortunate enough to see Bruce Springsteen, The Killers, Weezer, Nick Cage, Aretha Franklin and Spoon in the space of a year in three different countries (ahem). When I realized that no one – really, no one – cared that I scored spot at the lip of the stage at a Heartless Bastards concert at St. Andrew’s Hall so I could watch Craig Finn flare his nostrils as the opening act, I put the blog on a shelf.

Tom Petty - 2017Then Tom Petty came to town on his 40th anniversary concert tour this week, and the spark was rekindled.

Forty years ago there probably weren’t many musicians who expected to have a career in rock and roll. It was all single by single, show by show. Back then, Tom probably couldn’t have imagined ever being 66 years old, much less singing “American Girl” in the original key at that astronomical age. Yet here he is, still playing with some of the world’s best musical craftsmen he also calls friends, having the time of his life.

That palpable joy is what Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have that most bands don’t. They really dig making music. It doesn’t look like they regret playing “Refugee” for the umpteenth zillionth time, and they bring the same fire they did in the Seventies. Tom’s delight is infectious, his gratitude genuine.

I left the venue wondering, what’s out there that could bring me that much glee?

Writing. Duh.

Therefore, after a couple of years of false starts, a whale of a day job, a lot of negative self-talk and one too many hours spent in YouTube rat holes, I am determined to get back into the habit, produce some pages and care less about what others might think of my crappy first draft.

I even struck a bargain with myself:

 

I splurged on a baseball tour shirt, paying what we in our family call “loaded old people prices” to bring it home. Then, per my older daughter’s diabolically perfect advice, I handed it over to my younger daughter to keep until I’ve produced at least 40 pages of my next story. It’ll be a tangible reward for getting back into the game. Petty would be proud.

So, here’s to all you artists out there, whether your tool of choice is a Rickenbacker or a blog post. Your dedication is my inspiration. Now,  if you’ll excuse me, I have writing to do and stories to tell … and I really want to wear that great shirt before my September birthday. As Tom sings fifty times a summer,

And if she had to die/ trying, she
Had one little promise she was gonna keep

See you on the flip side …

 

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The Break a Leg Tour: Foo Fighters at DTE Energy Music Theater

26 Aug

Foo Fighters curtainAt last, four years after I’d seen them for the first time at the Palace, nine months after spending three of the coldest hours of my life waiting in line for tickets, the big day arrived: The Foo Fighters returned to Michigan, fronted by the indefatigable Dave Grohl.

Grohl has more than earned his reputation for being the biggest bad ass in rock and roll this summer. Back in June, Grohl pitched off the stage during a concert in Sweden, dislocating his ankle and breaking his leg before getting back on stage to finish the show. As he told Entertainment Weekly,

[T]he doctor said, “Your ankle’s dislocated and I have to put it back into place right now.” They put this roll of gauze in my mouth and I screamed and bit down on it and they put my ankle back into place and then everyone was quiet for a minute. The Foo Fighters were onstage playing a Queen song or something and I looked down and said, “OK, can I go back on stage now?” Because it didn’t hurt. My paramedic doctor said “I have to hold your ankle in place,” and I said, “Well, then you’re coming on f—ing stage with me right now.” And he did.

Dave Grohl and Dave GrohlOnce the adrenaline ebbed, the pain took over, and the band had to cancel the rest of their European dates. However, Grohl was determined to return to the road for the American leg (ahem) starting with the Foo’s 20th anniversary concert on July 4th in Washington D.C. While in the hospital – high as a kite due to painkillers – he designed a movable chair with speakers and a smoke machine built into the base and a huge red logo surrounded by guitar necks and “lazers.” Sitting on his throne, he could prop up his leg and still thrash through three hours of music. His crew constructed the contraption and the tour was saved.

As gruff as he comes off during a concert, he’s a fan first and foremost, knowing what it’s like to brave the weather, inflated ticket prices and a weary day at work the next morning to see a show. Promising to pack as much time on stage as the local ordinances would allow, Grohl kicked right into “Everlong” and didn’t let up for two and a half hours. This is a guy who usually runs from one end of the stadium to the other, so staying seated had to be tough. Although he’s graduated from a hard cast to a boot (which he used as an ersatz bow for his guitar for one number), he stayed on his throne, singing, screaming and headbanging per usual.

Dave Grohl in red

He’s also running for Coolest Dad on the Planet. A few times he called to the wings for some water, and out trotted Violet, his six year-old daughter, sporting noise-canceling earphones. (Five year-old Harper came out toward the end; probably his toddler was asleep on the bus.)

The crowd was up for anything as long as Dave was at the helm, and he was ready to acquiesce to our demands. He brought a fan on stage to make good on his poster board request to share a beer in honor of the guy’s 50th birthday. During his introductions of the band, joking that they knew “the first minute of every rock song ever written,” he capitulated to the crowd’s demand to play all of Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City.” More than once, he left it to the audience to decide if the next song would be a Foo Fighters song or a classic cover, clearly favoring the former. (Despite a compelling version of Tom Petty’s “Breakdown,” the Foos really aren’t that great of a cover band.)

There are so few honest-to-goodness rock bands left these days, much less those with band members under the age of 60. Grohl carries the torch for a lot of us who, despite kids, jobs, infirmities and changing times, never want the show to end.

See you on the flip side …

The “Summertime Sadness” of Lana Del Rey

9 Jun

Concertpalooza 2015 got off to a terrific start on May 31, thanks to the generosity of our friends who had tickets to Lana Del Rey they couldn’t use. Off to the rain-sodden DTE Energy Music Theater we went, my younger daughter and I, thrilled to see one of our favorites from the fourth row.

Lana Del Rey - 2

Photo by Davis Kurepa-Peers

Lana Del Rey used to perform under her given name, Lizzie Grant, but changed it to be more in line with the noirish Hollywood image she cultivates. Her look is very feminine: chiffon, liquid eyeliner, long hair and nails. Her multi-octave voice juices her ethereal, whiskey sour sound. In most of her work, she chronicles a doomed combination of attraction and danger when it comes to men. “Off to the Races” is a love song sung from a jail cell to a seedy older guy with a gambling habit and a “cocaine heart.” She excerpts The Crystals’ “He hit me and it felt like a kiss” in her lyrics for “Ultraviolence.” She even gives over to her boyfriend’s passion for Springsteen and video games.

It’s as if Carole King scored David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

The staging for her Endless Summer tour amplifies this, with the singer framed by two listing skyscrapers towering over a sign spelling her name in high-watt bulbs. The video footage on screens around the stage – of flowers, a car wreck, even Del Rey herself – shifted between black and white and the burnt rust and ocher of the cover of a pulp novel. Smoke furling around them, she and her four-piece band were mesmerizing.

Photo by Davis Kurepa-Peers

Photo by Davis Kurepa-Peers

I appreciate her daring disregard for what a modern woman is supposed to express. Her persona survives more than lives, loving whatever her boyfriend loves without question, molding herself to whatever shape her lover demands. She also appreciates her fans a great deal, to the point of stopping the show twice to go into the general admission area to pose for selfies and sign autographs. This struck my daughter as sweet, although it made me wonder why she couldn’t have just sung a couple extra numbers and stuck around after the show instead.

However, Del Rey’s obsession with death and “Summertime Sadness” raises concern and criticism in the press. (This is someone whose two big albums are Born to Die and Ultraviolence, after all.) When she capped her admiration for Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain to a British interviewer last summer by saying, “I wish I was dead already,” Frances Bean Cobain challenged her, saying “the death of young musicians isn’t something to romanticize.” It doesn’t help that Del Rey comes off as a bit flippant, making me shake my head as she considers feminism as merely being able to do what you want to do as a woman and otherwise “not an interesting concept.”

Clearly I don’t know her personally, so I don’t know whether she’s dealing with personal demons or shrugging off philosophical discussions to focus on her music. I also have to ask myself if quotes like this get hyped in the press because she’s a female singer who doesn’t do shiny, wildly costumed and choreographed pop.

Setting aside what may or may not be her personal foibles, Lana Del Rey is uniquely engaging because she isn’t out to be a role model, or empowering, or even fun, which isn’t what many would expect of a young female singer.  That’s what makes her appeal equally to jaded concert-goers like me and upbeat, well-adjusted young fans in flower crowns like my daughter:

See you on the flip side …

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