Tag Archives: rock and roll meltdowns

Unplugged (audience): Chrissie Hynde at the Masonic Temple Detroit

22 Nov

Chrissie Hynde StockholmWhen I went to the “Women Who Rock” exhibit, up from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a time at the Henry Ford Museum last summer, I was a little hesitant. Yes, many amazing women shaped the genre and the industry, but there are relatively few great female rock guitarists – and that dearth is a significant issue for an art form that values the singer/ songwriter/ guitarist above all.

Then just as I was leaving, I caught a TV interview with a reporter who declared Chrissie Hynde is “the female Keith Richards.” I went back into the exhibit and watched a tape of her playing lead guitar on “Middle of the Road” to verify his assessment, and I had to agree: she’s an authentic rock-and-roll badass.

At 63, she is also freakishly hot, a testament to the benefits of vegetarianism and swaggering for the last 40-some years. She has the good fortune of being a contralto from the start, so her range has remained intact throughout her career – no need to scramble to reach the high notes when she never sang any in the first place. She is also unafraid of collaborating with musicians decades younger than she is, as evidenced by her 2010 album, Fidelity! with Welsh singer J.P. Jones. It includes the song “Perfect Lover,” which could be autobiographical for all I know – if anyone could be in this situation, it would be her:

 

My partner generously extended my Concertpalooza streak by getting me tickets to her solo show at Detroit’s historic Masonic Temple on November 15. Once again I was a little hesitant because Hynde is, as the gal selling t-shirts put it, as “a pistol” when it comes to performing, particularly in this era of camera phones. Signs were posted throughout the lobby of the Masonic, and the guy with the Voice of God microphone repeated the respectful request to “experience the show in the moment, not from behind a screen.” Despite the civility, not everyone complies, which results in everything from her mild rebukes from the stage to flat-out stopping the show, as Hynde did at her Nashville concert a few days ago. With this fresh in my mind, I could only hope no one would turn her into Pissy Chrissie during the show.

Not to worry. Following a brief statement to a fan in the front to “put down the phone or go home” – and a crack about how it was good to see so many “old faces” in the crowd, adding “You’re never too old to haunt the house” – the remainder of the show was noisy and joyous. Hailing from Akron, Hynde has an affinity for a Midwestern crowd and seems genuinely pleased by the city’s return to the living. Even with a new solo album to tout, she was happy to dive into her Pretenders material, including “Precious” and “Tattoo Love Boys.”

And for the first time in too long, I enjoyed a concert without having to look through a sea of arms aloft, cameras glowing. It’s worth wondering how many of the photos we take at concerts are 1) any good or 2) viewed again ever … or 3) better than letting the energy and the sound take you over to create visceral memories that no photo can match.

Chrissie Hynde Masonic - 111514When Hynde came out for her second encore, she relented at last, perhaps as a reward for us behaving ourselves. “I appreciate you not using your camera phones during the show – they really fuck with my head,” she said. “But now, hey, the show is over so, go ahead and take them out and get your pictures.” After an uneasy titter went through the crowd, she said, “No, really, get them out!” So, for the last two songs we were able to take fully sanctioned, if also kind of crappy, photos to commemorate the experience.

See you on the flip side …

By the way, my next stop on the book tour is the Local Author Showcase at the Brighton District Library on December 7. I’ll chat about my work, then follow up with a meet and greet. Plenty of copies of Love and Other B-Sides will be available! Let us know you’re coming – RSVP here!

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Brain Stew

2 Oct

I can’t watch.

I know it’s out there everywhere online – YouTube and Facebook and a bazillion tabloid sites – but I just can’t bring myself to seek it out.

I can’t bear watching Billie Joe Armstrong lose his marbles on international TV.

Billie Joe Armstrong: the prettiest girl in punk rock

There have been any number of rock-and-roll meltdowns before. (The one, I hate to admit, that makes me laugh every time I hear about it? Pigeons registering their opinion of Kings of Leon by pelting them with poo during an outdoor concert … and landing a bomb in their bass player’s mouth.) Some would say it comes with the territory, cracking under the pressure of living the over-examined public life, dealing with ridiculously intrusive fans, facing unrestricted access to great quantities of any number of controlled substances. Oh, those delicate creative types.

Particularly for punk. With the Sex Pistols setting the bar for behavior, being hauled off to rehab an instant after smashing your guitar during a televised concert while screaming obscenities at your live studio audience (and defaming Justin Bieber) is kind of like forgetting to cover your mouth when you sneeze. It barely earned a column inch in Entertainment Weekly.

I hoped Mr. Armstrong was going to avoid all this. For a punk he seems like a responsible adult. He’s been married to the same woman for 18 years; his son and my daughter are both high school seniors this year; he loves The Who and Broadway. (It’s as if I’m looking in a mirror …) Green Day’s musicianship is tight, the vocals well-supported; Billie Joe probably won’t sound like Leonard Cohen in his later years … if he takes care of himself now.

Sigh …

There have been too many train wrecks in rock-and-roll and I get no pleasure in watching them happen. Here’s wishing Billie Joe a permanent recovery, and may American Idiot always be known as his best album, not his epitaph.

See you on the flip side …

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