Gwar

Concert Review: Gwar
(San Francisco, CA, The Regency Ballroom, 24-11-09)

Arash Moussavian On November 24, 2009, Gwar decimated, desecrated, and devirginized the once pristine Regency Ballroom (“RB”). Gwar started the concert at 10:00. Technically speaking, Gwarmania began at 9:50 when the band showed a spoof Gwar documentary on the large projection screen behind the drum set that gave a history of the band interspersed with interviews with Oderus Urungus (“OU”) (lead singer, real name Dave Brockie). While the movie was playing, I quickly put on a one piece coverall under the mistaken belief it would protect me from Gwar slime. [The fact that my underwear, socks, and contact lenses were blood red when I arrived home nixed that theory.] Gwar played 16 songs discussed in greater detail below.

1. Metal Metal Land (Lust in Space record, 2009) opened the festivities, a fast, upbeat song off Gwar’s new (and 11th) studio album released August 18, 2009. I admire Gwar for having the . . . ahem . . . balls (or the in case of OU, a brain dangling below his prosthetic penis, the “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu”) to start a show with a new song. Not many bands have the courage to do so. Two that come to mind are UFO during The Visitor tour (2009) and Kiss during the Psycho Circus tour (1998). This song provides clear evidence of Gwar’s thrash roots prominent on the “Scumdogs of the Universe” record (1990) and, after a foray in different musical directions, the “Violence has Arrived” (2001), “War Party” (2004), and “Beyond Hell” (2006) records.

Gwar 2. Saddam A Go Go (This Toilet Earth, 2004) featured a slave donning a rocket shaped helmet who appeared manning an archaic machine gun on a stand akin to one depicted in the “Mad Max” (1979) film. The slave doused the crowd with green slime. Since I was in the photo pit, I sought protection by ducking below stage height each time the slave turned and pointed the gun’s barrel at my quivering head.

Gwar 3. Lords and Masters (Lust in Space, 2009) is another fast up tempo song from Gwar’s most recent record. Two slaves appeared on stage. One slave sported an electric circular saw he used to cut the chest of the previously mentioned slave donning the rocket shaped helmet. This carnage caused the wounded slave’s chest to profusely bleed. Unfortunately, my earlier tactic of ducking below stage height miserably failed because the wounded slave lumbered and fell a few inches in front of me, past the tip of the stage. [I felt like a tiny rodent who had sought shelter by burrowing myself in an underground den but who had been sniffed out by a hungry salivating mongoose hovering above for his anticipated meal.]

4. Apes of Wrath (Violence has Arrived, 2001) featured frenetic riff work by Flattus Maximus (“FM”) (guitarist, real name Cory Smoot) and Balsac the Jaws of Death (guitarist, real name Mike Derks) and a strong drum beat by Jizmak Da Gusha (drummer, real name Brad Roberts). OU delivered the lyrics as a pseudo rap. Balsac

5. Tormentor (Beyond Hell, 2006) was the visual highlight of the show. A slave brought out a blue headed slave strapped to a vertical board. The slave with the electric circular saw used his bare hands to tear the flesh off the shackled slave’s right arm, exposing the skeleton. The slave used his saw to cut off both of his victim’s legs and then impaled his saw in his victim’s chest, causing him to vigorously bleed. The slave continued to carve his victim’s chest as if it was a Thanksgiving turkey, exposing his organs. The slave pulled out and ate portions of his victim’s intestine, savoring the delicacy as if he was eating beef jerky. The slave exhibited his dexterity by using his victim’s yanked large intestine to play the double dutch game of jump rope. [I imagined hearing the slave sing Frankie Smith’s funk hit single, “Double Dutch Bus” (1981)]. When he became bored playing with his victim’s organs, the slave violently ripped the skin of his victim’s head, exposing the flesh and making him look like one of the victim’s in Clive Barker’s classic horror film, “Hellraiser” (1987).

6. Where is Zog? (Lust in Space, 2009) featured a giant beast that resembled one of the Gamorrean Guards in George Lucas’s “Return of the Jedi” film (1983), but more refined than the slobbering film beast in that it donned a top hat and smoking jacket. A shirtless hooded slave used an oversized axe to cut the beast’s chest, causing it to spew blue slime.

7. Womb With A View (War Party, 2004) featured an up beat tempo and a punchy drum beat and bass line. Before the start of the song, OU cradled a two-foot alien creature that resembled a cross between a Cabbage Patch Kid and a baby tyrannosaurus rex. Shortly after Gwar started performing the song, a helmeted figure came on stage wearing a black shirt with the initials “MJ” on his chest. The figure removed his helmet, revealing a Michael Jackson (“MJ”) look alike, complete with an albino face, long semi curly black hair, and an albino prosthetic penis that looked more like a dangling gym sock. MJ grabbed the creature out of OU’s hands. OU then braced his “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu” (“COC”) as if he was Rambo wielding an AK-47. OU’s COC spewed green slime like a ceramic Angel fountain figurine spouting water. MJ was enticed by OU’s COC like a kid smacking his lips for a lollipop. MJ repeatedly attempted to clandestinely grab the COC. OU eventually grew tired of MJ’s repeated antics and ripped the flesh off MJ’s face, exposing a skeleton that spewed blood. For the 60 or so seconds that MJ spewed blood, he danced and pranced like the celebrity, replete with crotch grabs, one handed finger pointing in the air, and side to side head shakes.

Flattus 8. Let Us Slay (Lust in Space, 2009) is a solid mid tempo song performed with no antics.

9. Maggots (Scumdogs of the Universe, 1990) featured heavy drums, a chant along chorus, and a lightning fast brief guitar solo. The slave sporting an electric circular saw appeared and simulated masturbation. [I was reminded of the film “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) and the extreme care both Edward and the slave must use in engaging in self-satisfaction. An otherwise pleasurable act could turn into a painful experience of “Lorena Bobbit” proportions, albeit self induced.] Subsequently, a bare-chested slave appeared and got on his knees. The masturbating slave proceeded to show his hospitality or, lack thereof, by impaling his circular saw in the crouching slave’s back.

10. Immortal Corruptor (Violence has Arrived, 2001) featured a slower tempo but still with a heavy drum beat and brilliant FM guitar solo. OU brought out the alien creature first featured on Womb With A View and impaled its vagina surrounded by a row of jagged teeth with his sword, causing the creature to spit blood. OU handed the creature to a slave donning a helmet with two halfway imbedded circular saws who pointed the creature’s mouth at the crowd as it spewed blood.

Gwar 11. The Price of Peace (Lust in Space, 2009) featured Beefcake the Mighty (bassist, real name Casey Orr) on vocals. A 15 foot futuristic white robot with jagged teeth and eyes that lit up with white light stiltedly appeared. The slave with the electric circular saw and another holding an oversized sword confronted the robot. The robot used his massive forearms to knock the slaves around like miniature action figures. The sword wielding slave eventually impaled his weapon in the robot’s chest, causing the protective shield to fall off and a fetus to drop from within and dangle by its umbilical cord. Acting much like a tag team wrestling duo, the victorious slave and OU violently ripped the alien’s forearms off his body, causing the dangling ends of the robot’s upper arms to spew blood into the crowd. OU then finished the festivities by impaling the alien with his Conan the Barbarian sized sword. His slave henchman pulled the sword out and the alien hobbled off stage.

12. Lust in Space (Lust in Space, 2009) featured a slow, acoustic introduction. Within approximately one minute, the song went into overdrive with electric guitars playing a heavy riff at mid tempo. The song’s chorus is somewhat repetitive and, at over six minutes in length, the song dragged, slowing the frenetic pace of an otherwise brilliant show. At the end of the song, OU proudly proclaimed, “25 years of violence!”

The band left the stage at 10:53 and returned in two minutes to play four additional songs.

13. Bring Back the Bomb (War Party, 2004) is another heavy song with a thumping chorus. Prior to the pummeling song’s introduction, the Seal of the President appeared on the video screen accompanied by an audio recording of “Hail to the Chief.” A President Obama look alike came on stage offering his deepest thanks to Gwar for saving planet Earth. President Obama offered OU a medal. OU refused, repeatedly beat President Obama on his head with a short staff and then decapitated him, causing the President to spew blood from his neck.

Gwar 14. Jack the World (This Toilet Earth, 2004) was performed with no antics.

15. Have You Seen Me? (America Must Be Destroyed, 1992) is a song OU dedicated to “the Mission District Abortion Clinic.” This song has an interesting twist, beginning as a jazz infused bluesy song with a loose vocal delivery by OU. Approximately two minutes into the song, the song shifts into overdrive, and the band delivers an up tempo hard edged song with power chords galore. During the course of the song OU held a small bloody dead infant in hand that spewed an endless supply of blood into the crowd. [OU held the infant’s spewing mouth at the crowd as if he was watering his very dry lawn in the mid summer heat.]

16. Sick of You (Scumdogs of the Universe, 1990) is the last song, which featured a bare chested slave wearing a black g-string and mask with long downward protruding nose. The slave rolled forward the archaic machine gun first used on Saddam A Go Go for further blood sport. The slave had apparently tweaked the settings on the weapon, permitting him to simultaneously shoot red and green slime into the crowd.

Two flashback memories are worthy of mention.

Gwar First, I was reminded of Judas Priest’s show at the Oakland Arena during the Turbo tour (05 15 86). Like Priest, Gwar performed six songs off their new record. No disrespect to the mighty Priest, but being an avid thrash fan means Turbo’s light, synthesized tinged sound is my least favorite Priest record. I came close to performing hari kari (i.e., ceremonial suicide by ripping open the abdomen with a dagger) by the time the band performed the sixth song off Turbo. Fortunately, my plastic hot dog stand knife was as dull as my brain after taking a lengthy standardized aptitude test designed to gauge my I.Q. or, more aptly, lack thereof. In contrast, I enjoyed hearing six songs off Lust in Space because of the thrash induced feel of the songs.

Gwar Second, I watched in fascination backstage pre show at the fruitless efforts by two socially awkward and technically inept wanna be rockers setting up equipment for an on camera, interview with OU. The tiny cramped backstage area was riddled with camera equipment, including a tri pod, oversized camera, and yards of cable. The cameraman sported a spiked blonde mohawk but had the mannerisms of Beavis from the American animated television series “Beavis and Butt-Head” (1993-1997). The interviewer resembled Butt-Head or a Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game aficionado. Cameraman Beavis repeatedly scurried back and forth from behind the camera, intensely looking into the eyepiece as if he was Steven Spielberg. Interviewer Butt Head awkwardly stood a few feet in front of the camera nervously awaiting OU’s arrival. As it turns out, the hapless dimwits were unable to get the camera to function. Interviewer Butt Head had a brilliant idea, conduct the interview with his iphone. When OU walked into the room and saw a tri pod with no camera and interviewer Butt Head sticking an iphone in his face, he said in shock, “You want to do this on camera interview with an iphone?!” OU should have told cameraman Beavis and interviewer Butt Head they were Gwar’s VIP guests for the night and instructed them to hang out side stage. Then, right before Gwar took the stage and while the eager rabid fans were salivating over the anticipated onslaught, OU should have instructed Gwar slaves to manhandle the two fans by stripping them of all their clothes and dousing them in red and green slime, making them look like festive candy canes.

The Regency Ballroom Venue: the building that housed the original RB, known as the Avalon Ballroom, was built in 1911. The Avalon Ballroom operated from 1966-68 and reopened in 2003 under its current name. During the ballroom’s original stint in the 1960’s local bands such as Janis Joplin, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Steve Miller Band, and Big Brother and the Holding Company performed at this venue. RB is a 1,050 seat capacity theater with a rectangular shaped standing room floor measuring 96 by 69 feet with blonde hardwood floors and a permanent stage measuring 42 by 20 feet. Positioned 35 feet above the floor are 22 teardrop chandeliers circa 1900 secured on a roof adorned with gold medallions. RB has a horseshoe-shaped reserved seating balcony, the interior siding of which visible from the floor is virgin white. Four vertical white columns line the wall atop the stage and another six are present on each of the walls on the second floor. Also lining the side walls on each floor are six square shaped gold colored tapestries. [The more timid fans not enthused with being hosed by Gwar sludge took refuge on the second floor, hoping the liquid concoction could not reach them. However, the fact that a large portion of the balcony balustrade was lined with protective clear plastic should have provided ample notice that only the extreme regions of RB opposite the stage were safe from the gore fest about to ensue.]

Opening Bands: Gwar was supported by two opening bands, The Red Chord and Job for A Cowboy. Ashamedly, I missed both opening bands because I was busy transcribing the recent interview I conducted with UFO’s Vinnie Moore. [The last thing I want to do is to bear the wrath of a hot blooded Italian from the Tri State Area.]

Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Law Attorney
arashmoussavian@cal.berkeley.edu
http://www.linkedin.com/in/arashmoussavian
All photos taken by Arash Moussavian. This article and all photos are protected by copyright. Please contact me prior to use, or I will make shish kabab of your loins.

Posted in Concert Reviews | Tagged | 26,778 Comments

UFO

Concert Review: UFO
(San Francisco, The Independent, 01-11-09)

On November 1, 2009, UFO landed at the cesspool known as The Independent (“TI”), a grungy club in a fairly scruffy neighborhood. This marks the second consecutive concert UFO has played at TI, the last time also being on a Sunday, July 25, 2005. TI is a 375 seat club built approximately 50 years ago that previously operated under names such as The Kennel Club and Viz.

The Independent As you walk through the entrance and go through a narrow hallway you immediately end up on the general admission floor approximately 10 feet stage left. The stage measures approximately 30 feet across and only four feet high with no photo pit. The bar is located opposite the stage. TI has a second floor that includes quasi box seat sections stage right (eight- to 10 seat capacity) and stage left (three- to four seat capacity), as well as a mixing console across the stage. [The box seats are not as grandiose as the ones located in a traditional theater and more resemble wooden structures perched atop a tree house. The venue size gives TI more of a square than a rectangular shape, making it ideal for (1) a cock fight contest or (2) the chap toting, beer swigging redneck brigade to raise a raucous line dancing. For these reasons, and the shady neighborhood, if UFO was really an alien ship, I am hard pressed to believe it would have taken a gander at this venue, much less went inside.] However, the intimate venue size, low raised stage, and lack of photo pit afford an opportunity to get close to performers. For this reason, I have not passed up opportunities to see acts such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Blackmore’s Night, Testament, and Y&T at TI.

UFO was supported by the Travis Larson Band, a Southern California based fusion rock band that played a 45-minute instrumental set from 8:15 to 9:00.

UFO played 16 songs. Rather than act as a brace laden, pigtailed teenage girl who is a tease only flashing her developing goods to a hormone enraged boy (i.e., analogous to you the readers), I will enumerate all the songs UFO performed in lieu of a select group.

UFO 1. Saving Me (The Visitor record, 2009). The show started out with background music that was the introduction to the first song off UFO’s new (and 20th) studio record released in June 2009. I give credit to UFO for having the courage to start a show not only with a new song, one that most fans are not familiar with, but also one that is mid tempo with an acoustic introduction that Vinnie Moore (“VM”) played on a guitar propped on a stand a la “Beyond the Realms of Death” by the mighty Judas Priest. [I would have preferred if the show started with a song powerful enough to sheer the skin off my face or, at the very least, pummel my brain to the point where I can only speak in monosyllables.] This song is very bluesy with a strong guitar riff, solid drum beat, and an acoustic guitar solo. At the end of the song, Phil Mogg (“PM”) pulled a note out of his pocket and extended “Happy Birthday to Bob.” [Two questions popped in my head. First, why on earth would PM need to keep a note to remember a name as simple and short as Bob. The only simpler name I can think of is Ed. Second, what would be the most efficient and clandestine means for me to hunt down Bob and shove my combat boot up his butt for interrupting the momentum so early in the gig.]

UFO 2. Daylight Goes to Town (You Are Here, 2004) features soulful vocal performance by PM. PM wore black jean pants, black jean jacket, black tank top, and black boots that he laced up above him cuffs. [PM was the rock version of Johnny Cash, only much leaner and fit, surprising given the amount of beer he consumed (see below).]

3. Mother Mary (Force It, 1975) featured fiery guitar riffs and runs, as well as a great guitar solo. VM wore black jean pants (with a chain extending from his belt loop to his back pocket), black and grey t shirt with a glitter skull emblem atop a cross, and black sneakers. PM repeatedly held up the mike stand throughout this song. PM continued this tradition throughout the show. [I was inclined to suggest a workout regimen to PM, placing circular weights at the stand base to make a makeshift dumbbell.]

4. Let It Roll (Force It, 1975) featured great guitar feedback that would have made Ritchie Blackmore proud. Andy Parker (“AP”), UFO’s original drummer, resumed his duties with vigor at the skins pounding a coffee colored Tama drum set with double bass drums like a madman. The song featured a fast pounding drum beat. AP’s act of snarling and grinding his teeth as he pummeled the life out of his drums was priceless. [I was waiting for AP to lift a bass drum atop his head and shout, “Hulk angry!” Then effortlessly crush the bass drum like an aluminum can.] AP wore a black muscle t shirt, fitting for his large John Bohnamseque frame. At the end of this song, PM made a witty comment, something that became the norm during the show. Sadly, given PM’s thick British accent, I could not understand most of what he was saying, something about it “being hard to get to the East End.” [I looked at VM and he had the same blank expression on his face. Now if VM does not understand what PM was saying after a six year tenure in the band, I gather I am not retarded, at least not in the clinical sense.]

UFO 5. I’m A Loser (No Heavy Petting, 1976) features a slow introduction and then progresses to an upbeat tempo. This song has a groovy, punchy bass line faithfully delivered by Rob De Luca (“RDL”). RDL, a New Yorker, formerly of Sebastian Bach’s band, filled in for the ill Pete Way. RDL wore a black muscle t shirt, brown boots, and vintage vertical striped (grey, red, and blue) slacks. [RDL told me post show his slacks were inspired by the Pete Way school of fashion.] Paul Raymond (“PR”) played his Korg and Roland keyboards. At the end of the song PM told another incoherent joke. [I felt as if I was watching the opening monologue of a re run episode of the classic 1970s British comedy show, “Benny Hill.”]

6. Hell Driver (The Visitor, 2009) was the second new song UFO performed, a song with a groovy riff, memorable solo, heavy drums, and prominent use of a cowbell. This song received the most rabid response, making it the ideal choice for the set opener. At the end of the song PM consumed one of many beers for the night and proclaimed, “It is all for effect.” [However, PM’s gusto for, and quantity of, beer consumption reflected it was more for the love of beer, qualifying PM for candidacy in Alcoholics Anonymous.]

7. Cherry (Obsession, 1978) is a crushing number that meandered between slow fast slow fast tempos. It reminded me of classic songs by The Who. At the end of the song PM said there is “humor in the last line [of the song].” [Sadly, the humor of the joke was lost on me. I looked at VM and his expression echoed the same sentiment. PM looked at VM while telling the joke and VM forcibly nodded while PM was mid sentence as if to say, “Get on with it already. I am on an adrenaline high and do not want to hear a standup routine.”]

UFO 8. Only You Can Rock Me (Obsession, 1978) features prominent keyboard by PR, making it a poppier song but still with a strong drum beat. PR wore black jean pants, a short sleeve button up black shirt, black satin vest with a burgundy floral pattern, and black sneakers. PR is a talented guitarist and keyboardist. His laid back lackadaisical stage persona is in sharp contrast to his band mates. [But then again, so was that of John Entwistle in comparison to the over the top antics of Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, and Pete Townshend of The Who.]

9. Ain’t No Baby (Obsession, 1978) features an effective, plodding bass line. During this song, and many others, PM took two to three steps left and right with conviction and a slight bob of the head. [PM looked as if he was sparring or getting ready for a boxing match. He would also come up toward stage front, but back away just before he got close enough for the fans to reach him.]

10. Love to Love (Lights Out, 1977) featured PR on keyboards. Although a slower song, it featured heavy drums and a heavy bass line. VM switched between his electric and acoustic guitars (the latter on a stand). This song was played in extended form and featured a great VM guitar solo. VM used Dean Guitars and Engl Amplification. At the end of the song PM reached in his pocket and pulled out some currency. [I thought he was going to tip the crowd for their enthusiasm, but PM had other plans that came to light after the next song.]

UFO 11. Mystery Train (Junior Parker/Sam Phillips cover, 1953) is a cover song from nearly 60 years ago with a very strong blues feel and clap along introduction. PM sang this song in a very low octave, so much so that the veins in his left temple were prominently exposed. [The veins were so apparent that PM looked like one of the victims in the 1981 horror film “Scanners” with the unfortunate fate of having his mind controlled by the scanner alien beings bearing great psychic power. I was waiting for PM’s temple to profusely bleed and eventually explode. Maybe that is why PM drank so much beer, to numb his brain to the point that it did not explode, something that may also work for me when my brain begins to feel warm, like a poached egg after continued, excessive head banging.] The song also featured harmonica. At first I was puzzled as I did not see any band mate toting a harmonica. But I looked up and saw PR synthesizing this effect on his keyboard. [It would have been more authentic to see PM pull out a harmonica out of his pocket.] At the end of this song a waitress toting a small plate with a beer walked right next to me front row and handed PM another beer. PM approached her with the currency he had earlier taken out and the waitress begrudgingly accepted the money.

UFO 12. Too Hot to Handle (Lights Out, 1977) features a great chorus and was one of the top three songs of the night. During the solo VM and RDL each lifted and positioned their axes behind their heads and then approached each other, standing within a few feet of each other while jamming. After about 30 seconds of dueling axes, VM took it a step further and began to pluck his guitar strings with his teeth. [Jimi Hendrix would have been proud. I wonder if VM’s band mates ever tease him by offering him a high E-string in lieu of dental floss once he gets in his jammies.] Positioned atop the monitor within a few feet of AP’s left shoulder was a colorful toy figurine measuring approximately three inches holding a guitar and gyrating his hips left and right like Elvis Presley in response to the sound reverberating through the small club. A very fitting addition to the band’s tongue in cheek humor. [Given AP’s husky frame, he looked like King Kong next to the figurine. AP’s menacing snarl, teeth grinding, and head shaking made it seem as if, at any moment, he would snatch the figurine and engulf it in one bite like a gummy bear.] At the end of the song PM pontificated, “Since this is the last gig [before UFO resumes the tour in Europe in mid November], I asked the band their thoughts on playing in a band. As it turns out, they all think different things.” [One of the readers out there please e mail me the point PM tried to make. I felt like I was listening to Confucius. PM’s eternal wisdom was far beyond what my miniscule brain could handle. I am still grappling and contemplating the difficult question of the true shape of my fuzzy navel.]

 

13. Lights Out (Lights Out, 1977) was likely the most memorable song of the night. As I was head banging to the rollicking guitar, bass, and drums, the music felt like a hurricane gaining force and momentum about to peel the ceiling off the club and my face. [A cautionary note to young head bangers front row near a low raised stage: be wary and cognizant of the location of stage monitors. I have driven my forehead into monitors while head banging due to my lack of coordination and appreciation for the laws of physics, acting like an inept martial artist feebly attempting to split the monitor as if it is a pine board.] Lights Out began with an up tempo beat and a slower mid section, providing definition and depth.

14. Rock Bottom (Phenomenon, 1974) featured an extended five to six minute guitar solo during which PM stepped off stage. [I gather PM had enough time to make a quick beer run to the liquor store located across the street.] PM reappeared on stage following VM’s solo concluding what turned out to be a 12 minute epic that left me physically drained akin to a quickie nookie session. Rock Bottom, Too Hot to Handle, and Lights Out were the top three songs. The band left the stage at 11:10 and returned in two minutes to play the first of two encores.

15. Shoot Shoot (Force It, 1975) features heavy drums, a great guitar riff, and an extended solo break. The band left the stage a second time at 11:21 and returned in two minutes to play the second encore.

16. Doctor Doctor (Phenomenon, 1974) was the final song, a strong number, but not as memorable as the preceding three songs.

Two flashback memories are worthy of mention. The first involves seeing Dio at the Cow Palace in San Francisco during the Sacred Heart tour (12-08-85). During that show I recall looking around the nearly sold out 18,000 seat arena at the sea of fans of all ages, those dating back to Ronnie James Dio’s Elf and Rainbow days, as well as newer fans that revered his work with Black Sabbath and his solo band. The wide age spectrum reflected a healthy fan base, ensuring Dio’s commercial and artistic success for many years to come and laying the basis for him to continue to play large arenas through the late 1980s. Sadly, the same could not be said for UFO because the Old Fart Test failed. The Old Fart Test is simple to apply. When the white stage lights shine on the crowd you simply look back at the audience at the quantity of prescription spectacles sparkling and reflecting light. If you observe a large quantity of reflections, it means the audience contains a lot of older fans (i.e., old farts). This was the case at the UFO show. Do not get me wrong. It is ok to have a large contingent of older fans because they tend to be the diehard fans able and willing to sing and play air guitar to each and every song in the band’s catalog. However, when the audience has a limited number of younger fans, like at the UFO show, it is cause for concern. A band such as UFO will continue to have its core of diehard fans in there thirties and above that worship UFO for significant, immeasurable impact on the development of the heavy metal genre. However, judging from the San Francisco show, UFO may have difficulty drawing younger fans, at least in the Bay Area, stymieing its efforts to play to larger crowds, sell greater quantities of records, and, in turn, attain the commercial success UFO rightfully deserves.

The second flashback memory I had was to seeing (Ritchie) Blackmore’s Night play at TI (02 01 05). In contrast to the loud raucous show UFO put on, Blackmore was more intent on decorum and keeping sound at a minimum. On a few occasions I observed from front row Blackmore looking above his head at the air conditioning (“A/C”) unit hanging above the stage approximately 10 feet from his head. Blackmore seemed distracted as if he was being pestered by tsetse flies hovering overhead. Then, Blackmore abruptly put down his acoustic guitar mid song and casually walked off stage. A venue staff member came on stage and made an announcement that the A/C unit was making excessive noise and distracting Mr. Blackmore. This coming from a guitar legend who, as a member of Deep Purple and Rainbow, used to play in front of a wall of Marshall amplifiers high enough to require a ladder and oxygen mask for his stage hands to scale their lofty heights. The house crew worked diligently to shut off the A/C. When Ritchie came back on stage I was saddened I was not wearing my Kiss Lick It Up tour t shirt (1983) so I could proudly display the bold and poignant message it bears, one I will preach to the day I gingerly cart my IV ridden, hobbled, shriveled frame to my grave in a rusted, squeaky wheelchair, “If It’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old.”

Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Law Attorney
arashmoussavian@cal.berkeley.edu
http://www.linkedin.com/in/arashmoussavian
All photos taken by Arash Moussavian. This article and all photos are protected by copyright. Please contact me prior to use, or I will make shish kabab of your loins.

Posted in Concert Reviews | Tagged | 25,358 Comments

Alice Cooper

Concert Review: Alice Cooper
(San Francisco, CA, Warfield Theater, 21-10-09)

Arash Moussavian Non stop, jack rabbit virgin sex is the best phrase I can use to describe the pace of Alice Cooper’s (“AC’s”) set. AC’s band, that includes Keri Kelli (“KK”) and Damon Johnson (“DJ”) on guitar, Chuck Garric (“CG”) on bass, and Jimmy DeGrasso (“JD”) on drums, bulldozed through 26 songs in one hour and 25 minutes before the encore break. No pause between songs, not even the ubiquitous utterance of “How ya’ doin’ San Francisco?!” It was like the testosterone laced first sexual experience of a young teenager relying on the sketches in Alex Comfort’s book, “The Joy of Sex” to make sure he gets it right. No chit chatter, no pause, just the frenetic pace of jack rabbits doing the dirty deed. When it is over you are not sure what just hit you, but whatever it was it felt good, albeit a bit strange. In the case of an awkward first sexual experience, what hits you is the “big O.” In the case of what transpired at the hallowed Warfield Theater (“WT”), it was a mix of P. T. Barnum and shock rock and roll.

Alice Cooper On October 21, 2009, AC brought his entertaining vaudevillian circus to WT. For those of you who have read my review of the Motorhead show at WT from earlier in the month, I ask for your indulgence in repeating a brief history for this historic venue. WT, where Slayer filmed its classic DVD entitled, War at the Warfield during the God Hates Us All tour (12-07-01), is a 2,500 seat capacity theater built in 1927 and renovated in September 2008. WT’s layout presents a dichotomy. On the one hand, the theater’s beauty is exemplified by intricate frescos of matadors and angels painted on the ceiling atop the stage. Box seats that have long been put out of use adorn each side of the stage and the walls of the seated balcony are a vibrant plum red and gold combination. On the other hand, the standing room only floor has a stark industrial feel with black walls and floor. The walls are carpet padded, serving a safety function for your injury prone writer who trounced around like a whirling dervish at Slayer and Megadeth shows.

Alice Cooper AC was supported by Jetboy, a San Francisco based rock band formed in 1983. Jetboy played a 40-minute set from 8:00 to 8:40. Following Jetboy’s set an expansive curtain was raised stage front, featuring a likeness of AC’s head as a skull along with the phrase, “Theater of Death.” After a 35 minute set change the curtain dropped at 9:15. Hanging individually from the ceiling at varying distances from front stage, were five letters that read, “A” “L” “I” “C” “E.” Each red colored letter was made of velvet, ranging from three to 10 feet in height, with a black border encased by a white border. Even though the logo obstructed the view for some fans it added to the carnival like atmosphere depicting the stage as an LSD induced birthday party from the summer of love (1967). [The only thing missing was for a junkie Bozo the Clown to stumble on stage munching on a magic shroom.]

Alice Cooper For the benefit of providing a full picture of the freak show, I enumerate all 26 songs AC performed. [The hardcore Cooper fans should appreciate a detailed account, including theatrics, not a skimpy mention of a half dozen songs as if I was doing the 11 o’clock Sunday night sports wrap of the day’s football matches.]

1. School’s Out (School’s Out record, 1972) started the show. Oddly, AC eventually played the same song as the sole encore. AC’s first crack at this song was in partial form. Plenty of audience sing along, particularly from the female contingent. AC wore black leather pants, black cotton jacket, burgundy shirt featuring a large skull print, black leather gloves, and a black top hat featuring a skull held in place by skeleton fingers. His pants and jacket featured metal studs. AC had a silver mike holder on his hip comprised of skeleton fingers. [You get the picture. The theme was skulls and skeleton anatomy. I gather the mike holder is also well suited for storing oversized ice cream cones.]

Alice Cooper 2. Department of Youth (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975) was an excellent choice for the second song because it is a chant song with audience participation. AC played seven songs off Welcome to My Nightmare. During the last eight or so years it has become popular for artists to play a seminal catalog record in its entirety. AC’s Theater of Death tour was not such a tour for Welcome to My Nightmare, making it uncommon to hear seven songs off this record. [The last time I recall a band performing so many songs off one record was Judas Priest performing six songs off Turbo during the Turbo tour.]

Alice Cooper 3. I’m Eighteen (Love It to Death, 1971), one of AC’s biggest hits, was a surprising song to hear so early in the set. Regardless, it featured great guitar solos by DJ and KK. DJ wore black jeans with a silver skull pattern, long sleeve black shirt with frilly French cuffs. AC walked around holding a crutch comprised of, what else, skeleton bones. [Had I known bones played such a prominent role in the show I would have snuck in a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, gnawed on the meat, and tossed the bone fragments on stage.]

4. Wicked Young Man (Brutal Planet, 2000). AC switched to an off black sleeveless studded denim jacket and black captain’s hat. A few stagehands appeared on stage wearing black hoods (hereafter referred to as henchmen) looking like members of The Mentors, the shock rock band formed in Seattle in 1976. One henchman impaled AC with AC’s silver mike stand while AC laid on his back atop a steel circus lion stand. This song features a great bass line from CG who wore black jeans, army green satin jacket, and grey tank top with a skull print.

Alice Cooper 5. Ballad of Dwight Fry (Love It to Death, 1971). AC sang this ballad while sitting center stage wearing a burgundy straight jacket. KK, who wore black jeans, black denim vest, and a black t-shirt, played an acoustic guitar. At the end of the song a black hooded henchman placed AC in a guillotine and performed a mock execution. A few seconds later AC appeared from behind the guillotine and pulled out what was supposedly his severed head and held it high in the sky as if holding Medusa’s head.

6. Go to Hell (Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, 1976) is a groove laden song with a catchy chorus.

Alice Cooper 7. Guilty (Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, 1976) is a chugging song that featured a voodoo vibe. AC wore a suede burgundy jacket with an armadillo leather patch across his entire back, large skull bones attached to both sides of the chest, and a black top hat with long feathers.

8. Welcome to My Nightmare (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975) began with a cascade of smoke, thunder, and lightning improvised using flashing white light. AC sat on a stool where he sang the eerie introduction, reminiscent of the ominous Black Sabbath by the legendary Black Sabbath off, what else, the Black Sabbath record (1969). At the end of this song, one female and three male white hooded henchmen appeared on stage. They danced around AC like zombies before AC pushed them away. Welcome to My Nightmare fluidly led straight into Cold Ethyl.

9. Cold Ethyl (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975) featured AC masquerading with a life size blonde haired female doll. AC sang to the doll, danced with it, placed it on his lap, and threw it around like a rag doll. [I gather AC’s Barbie collection, if one exists, is not in mint condition.]

Alice Cooper 10. Poison (Trash, 1989) was next, the only song from the 1980s and my least favorite. Poison is too poppy and formulaic. Poison epitomizes what was wrong with a lot of rock music from the late 1980s, musicians who became corporate whores, allowed the executives (suits) who could not distinguish between Iron Butterfly and Iron Maiden to dictate how to write songs that would get airplay on radio and MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” television show. This logic did allow for short term commercial success for the greedy and misguided artists, but meant artist compromise, alienating dedicated fan bases. At the end of the song two hooded henchmen along with female nurse in a skimpy white outfit came on stage and “injected” AC with a gargantuan hypodermic needle.

Alice Cooper 11. The Awakening (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975) is a ballad that AC sang while on his knees.

12. From the Inside (From the Inside, 1978) featured AC stumbling around in a mock inebriated state toting an empty Jack Daniels bottle while the nurse stood on a platform near the back of the stage taking observation notes. Shortly before the extended guitar solo, the nurse escorted AC off stage in a consolatory manner. CG, DJ, and KK came stage front and jammed while standing atop a steel grill approximately one foot above the stage and extending approximately 10 feet across the stage.

Alice Cooper 13. Nurse Rozetta (From the Inside, 1978) featured AC singing from a wheelchair and a muddled and sloppy chorus. AC wore a white shirt and white pants bearing the phrase “Asylum” on his chest and repetitive small size cross emblems. The female nurse stood on a platform grinding an electric sander against a stone attached atop her, ahem, sensitive region, causing sparks to fly. The nurse then took AC’s temperature and listened to his lungs with her stethoscope. AC miraculously got up from the wheelchair and grabbed the stethoscope from the nurse, tossing it around during the remainder of the song.

14. Is it My Body (Love It to Death, 1971).

15. Be My Lover (Killer, 1971) features a catchy drum beat. A stagehand put a white screen measuring 10 feet by 10 feet on stage. The nurse went behind the stage, becoming visible only by her silhouette, and danced while AC sang. AC put a long white sock over his head, took a second sock and went behind the screen where he used it to choke the nurse.

Alice Cooper 16. Only Women Bleed (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975) is a ballad that featured an acoustic guitar and AC singing atop the lion stand while holding the limp body of the unconscious nurse on his lap. Halfway through the song AC threw the nurse off his lap and removed her red colored wig. The nurse regained consciousness. AC put the wig on his head and stood over the nurse. With a frightened look on her face and on her knees, the nurse pleaded for mercy. Three black hooded henchmen grabbed AC from behind and forced him to a stand bearing a noose. At this point, Only Women Bleed led straight into I Never Cry.

17. I Never Cry (Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, 1976). AC sang atop a stand with the noose around his neck looking like an insane red headed drag queen who had escaped from a sanitarium. The nurse came to AC’s side and, with a mischievous look on her face, kicked the stand from beneath his feet, hanging AC. AC was carted off by two henchmen while dangling like salami.

18. The Black Widow (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975) is a groovy instrumental that featured solos by KK, DJ, JD, and CG. Since JD was on a drum riser high enough to cause a nose bleed, the only thing visible was his black t-shirt and massive sparkle laden chocolate colored drum kit.

Alice Cooper 19. Vengeance is Mine (Along Came A Spider, 2008) featured AC singing song from a ridiculously tall black step ladder perched approximately 15 feet. AC wore a jacket featuring zippers on each side of his chest, metal studs all along his back, and six extra dangling arms (three on each side), making AC look like a spider when he extended his hands out. Toward the end of song AC climbed down from the platform and was impaled with a steel rod by two black hooded henchmen.

20. Devil’s Food (Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975) is a mid tempo song at the end of which AC shouted, “Repent!”

21. Dirty Diamonds (Dirty Diamonds, 2005) is an up-tempo song featuring a furious guitar riff but repetitive chorus. A black hooded henchman brought out a four wheel kid’s cart lined with a red velvet fabric that held a mountain encrusted in coins. A Cabbage Patch sized female doll was perched atop the mountain. AC drew silver bead necklaces from the cart that he threw into the crowd.

Alice Cooper 22. Billion Dollar Babies (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973). AC wielded a long sword that had pierced multiple fake $100 bills featuring AC’s image in lieu of Benjamin Franklin. AC swiftly swung the sword, causing the bills to fly off and into the crowd. At end of song AC decapitated the doll in the cart.

23. Killer (Killer, 1971) features a groovy bass line. The audience snapped their fingers in response to AC’s lead. [I felt as if I was in an episode of the campy 1960s American television show, “The Addams Family.”] AC picked up the doll head with his sword and held it in his palm. [AC looked like Indiana Jones holding the gold Mayan head in “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.”] This song led straight into I Love the Dead.

Alice Cooper 24. I Love the Dead (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973). The black hooded henchmen carted out a refrigerator size grey rectangular box with an iron maidenesque contraption featuring approximately 18 three inch long horizontal steel rods adjacent to the side of the box. A black hooded henchman forced AC into the box and shut the side door, only making AC’s head visible atop the box. The nurse went to the box side bearing the rods and violently pushed the rods into the box, impaling AC. The nurse carted the box containing AC off stage.

Alice Cooper25. No More Mr. Nice Guy (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973) featured AC wearing a black t shirt with nine softball sized blood splatter marks, symbolizing where he was supposedly impaled by the rods. This song has a catchy chorus and has been covered by Megadeth for the soundtrack to the 1988 documentary, “The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years” directed by Penelope Spheeris. AC marched around with a black tuxedo cane that he eventually threw into the crowd. A scuffle broke out amidst the fans over rights to the cane warranting security intervention. [What the zealous fans who grasped the cane with dear life did not realize is they could have simply waited for AC by his tour bus and asked him to hand over the cane he used to aid his stride from WT to the bus (kidding Mr. Cooper).]

26. Under My Wheels (Killer, 1971) was the final pre encore song. The audience enthusiastically clapped along. The entire band, sans JD, took position atop the elevated steel grill stage front. After the guitar solo AC introduced the band. Oddly, rather than one of the band members introducing AC, AC introduced himself by chanting, “And Me!” He repeated the phrase approximately four times. The band left the stage at 10:39 and returned in one minute to play the encore.

Alice Cooper 27. School’s Out (School’s Out, 1972) was performed a second time, this time in its entirety. AC wore an interesting outfit comprised of matching silver top hat, slacks, and jacket with tails (similar to that worn by symphony conductors) and featuring cracked mirror inlays that vibrantly reflected light. Stage hands tossed giant balloons on stage and into the crowd. When the balloons were popped by rabid fans and the headstock of KK, DJ, and CG’s instruments, confetti burst in the air.

At 10:45 the band took a bow before the crowd and the carnival ended. [Sadly, I missed the conjoined twins and the lady with the beard, but did see a gruff homeless woman in the nearby street of the slum neighborhood post gig who qualified as the latter.]

Alice Cooper Two flashback memories are worthy of mention. The first is John Carpenter’s 1987 horror film, Prince of Darkness in which AC played the role of a homeless/zombie. After the show I waited for KK outside WT about 100 feet from the tour bus situated on the adjacent street. After speaking with CG, a non descript fellow wearing a plain cotton black jacket and pumpkin orange shirt emerged from WT’s side door and walked toward me (and the bus). When this fellow, accompanied by a burly WT security guard who I will call Neanderthal Ned (“NN”) came within 20 feet, I realized it was AC. AC had his head down, hands tightly tucked in pockets, and walked briskly as if he had not urinated since sound check, making it patently clear he did not want his “flow” (pardon the pun) interrupted. I could not help it. The adolescent in me took over and, as Alice walked by, I blurted out, “How are you doing Alice.” Alice looked up, muttered something incoherent with an odd expression on his face, and walked past me without a pause. AC looked and sounded like the homeless/zombie in Prince of Darkness. At that point, a handful of autograph hounds in the vicinity realized who was on the street and ran after AC, prompting NN to proclaim in a fairly loud voice, “We’re not stopping for nobody.” [Grammar (and higher education) are not NN’s strong suit, which I should have gathered by observing his attire, a black leather vest atop a white long sleeve thermal shirt and bright red t shirt, looking like an over the hill rugby player.] NN was right. AC walked straight past everyone and onto the bus.

Alice Cooper Second, NN’s poor grammar reminded me of Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s book, “Green Eggs and Ham” (1960). Earlier that evening I had an unpleasant interaction with NN. I simply asked him for the attendance. NN’s reaction made it seem as if I sought the security code to break into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. (I estimate 1,700 people in attendance, which would have been higher had the ticket prices not been set at $42.50 face value.) I smiled at NN and walked away. Admittedly, when I later saw NN walk past me with AC, I was, for a nanosecond, tempted to commit a heinous act that would have surely resulted in loss of my license to practice law. I resisted the urge to run up to NN, jump up a few inches to reach his lofty height, crack his forehead open with a swift blow from my hard noggin, and subsequently snap his neck with a quick forceful twist of his head between my right thumb and middle finger, causing his limp Herculean frame to fall before my feet where I would use my combat boot to slosh it around like wet Thai noodle. However, the wisdom and anti violence stance of my devout Muslim father knocked me back to reality. I have instead decided to buy NN Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” at the children’s section of the local bookstore. I will present the book to NN at the next WT show. Heck, I will even offer to put his large frame on my lap and read to him. “I do not eat green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.”

Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Attorney
arashmoussavian@cal.berkeley.edu
www.linkedin.com/in/arashmoussavian

Posted in Concert Reviews | Tagged | 14,187 Comments

Foreigner

Concert Review: Foreigner
(San Francisco, CA, The Fillmore, 08-10-09)

Arash Moussavian Prior to seeing Foreigner perform live, the band was, for the most part, foreign to me. As a teenager growing up in the 80s, my first allegiance was to Kiss. All is took was one listen to the song All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose and I was hooked. As the years progressed and the Bay Area thrash movement blossomed like a maggot-covered carcass in a fog laced graveyard, my tastes began to lean to harder edged music, Slayer, Exodus, Celtic Frost, Metallica, and Anthrax. For this reason, I initially wavered on attending the show. However, the band’s keyboardist, Michael Bluestein, graciously invited me to discuss the prospects of providing legal representation. I accepted his offer and attended donning a Motorhead t shirt. Interestingly, I was the only visible fan [yes, I admittedly said fan] donning a metal shirt and certainly the only one, aside from Jeff Pilson (bassist), head banging to Foreigner songs I heard yesteryear on television commercials selling “Songs from the 70s” records.

The Fillmore (“TF”) is a historic San Francisco theater that, in the mid 1960s, under the direction of legendary late Bay Area rock promoter Bill Graham, was the site of psychedelic and rock music and counterculture. TF’s early days featured acts such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Doors. TF is a 1,200 seat capacity venue with a standing room floor similar to an oversized dance hall. Positioned above the floor are 10 chandeliers. The second floor contains a bar and box seats, specifically, six box seats stage right and another two, along with the mixing room, across the stage.

Foreigner Foreigner started the concert, with no opening band, at 8:17 pm. The band played 15 songs discussed in greater detail below.

1. Double Vision, a mid tempo song, opened the set.

2. Head Games starts out slow and picks up pace. It featured a great Mick Jones (lead guitars) solo while Kelly Hansen (lead vocalist) played a tambourine center stage atop a mini riser about 1.5 feet above the stage in front of the Foreigner logo backdrop. Jones, who is the only surviving original band member, wore black slacks, white tuxedo shirt, and a black vest. [Jones bears a slight resemblance to Micky Dolenz of The Monkees.] Following the song, Hansen asked the crowed if they “are ready for a rock and roll party? It certainly smells like it!” (Referring to the smell of marijuana permeating the air.)

3. Cold As Ice is a slower song that featured a prominent keyboard introduction by Jones. The audience provided ample participation fueled by Hansen’s act of perching himself on the barricade and subsequently grabbing a photographer’s camera to take photos of his band mates. Hansen, who has been handling lead vocals since 2005 and is ex frontman for Hurricane, wore a powder blue leather jacket, black jeans and a black and white t shirt. [Hansen’s mouth reminded me of Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler.]

Foreigner 4. Good Morning Good Day is a poppy song with a catchy chorus. It featured Hansen playing the maracas.

5. Waiting for A Girl Like You is a power ballad that featured Jones on keyboard. The audience, containing a sizable number of females in their 40s 50s, enthusiastically sang along.

6. Can’t Slow Down is a new song featuring a groovy riff, “Eric Claptonesque” guitar solo that Jones played on his black Les Paul, and a harmonic, memorable chorus. Following this song, Hansen stated, “I smell the sweet perfume of women,” which provided a good segue way to the next song.

7. Dirty White Boy was a surprising and very well executed up tempo song, arguably the highlight of the night. Hansen capped the song by encouraging the female contingent to “feel free to take your clothes off.” [I was tempted to throw my Motorhead t shirt on stage but did not think Hansen longed to see my man boobs.]

Foreigner 8. Say You Will featured Pilson, Brian Tichy (drummer), and Thom Gimbel (second guitarist and saxophonist) standing stage left in front of Tichy’s drum set. Pilson clapped, Tichy played a tambourine, and Gimbel played the maracas. On the other side, Jones played an acoustic guitar while Michael Bluestein (keyboardist) came toward the front of the stage to play Jones’s keyboards. [I wonder if Bluestein gets nervous about tarnishing the ivory keys of overlord Jones’s keyboard?] Pilson, formerly of Dokken, has handled bass duties since 2004. He appeared in silk/cotton black slacks and long sleeve black shirt. At the end of the song Hansen revisited his fascination and longing for the forbidden weed by stating, “The ganja is getting to me. I am getting hungry.”

9. Starrrider was a surprising selection from Foreigner’s first record played in extended form, adding to its appeal and, along with Dirty White Boy, being standouts. Jones dedicated Starrider to his late friend, Bill Graham, who met his untimely death in a freak helicopter accident on October 25, 1991 while returning from a Huey Lewis and the News concert in Concord, California. Tichy commenced the song with a thunderous drum pattern, Gimbel played the flute, and Hansen played a tambourine. Jones handled lead vocals while playing an acoustic guitar. He switched to an electric tobacco sunburst Les Paul in time to lay down a memorable solo. Following the song, Jones introduced the band members.

Foreigner 10. Feels Like the First Time features a catchy chorus and guitar solo by Gimbel. Gimbel, who has handled guitar and saxophone duties in 1993 and since 1995, wore blue jeans and a long sleeve black shirt. Although Gimbel has the longest tenure in Foreigner aside from Jones, he, at times, looked a bit awkward onstage, overdoing the macho poses and scrunching his lips sideways as if recently injected with a heavy dose of Novocain. [Gimbel bears a resemblance to childhood actor Barry Williams who played Greg Brady in the popular 60s American television show, “The Brady Bunch.” I know, enough already with the resemblances. But I could not help it. About the half the band looked eerily like other celebrities.]

11. Urgent was introduced with a dizzying array of flashing blue, red, and yellow colors similar to that which adorns the Agent Provocateur album cover. This song featured an entertaining saxophone solo by Gimbel.

12. Juke Box Hero was preceded by a three minute keyboard solo by Bluestein. Bluestein’s keyboards, comprised of a Roland and Korg, were located at the rear of the stage, stage right. Jones’s Kurzweil keyboard was positioned approximately three feet in front of Bluestein’s set up. Bluestein wore white pants and a white t shirt. Bluestein’s keyboard solo led directly into a four minute drum solo by Tichy. Tichy has handled drum duties in 1998 2000, 2007 and since 2008. Tichy, who formerly played drums for Billy Idol, Ozzy Osbourne, Velvet Revolver, and Slash’s Snakepit, wore blue jeans and a black t shirt, and has a solid physique, like a slimmed down version of Kane Roberts, former guitarist for Alice Cooper. The hardest hitting drummers I have seen in concert are Dave Lombardo of Slayer, Tom Hunting of Exodus, and the late Eric Carr of Kiss. Tichy’s energy level was not far distant from these drummers. Tichy topped many solos I have seen by discarding his sticks and performing the majority hitting the floor toms, snare drum, and cymbals with the back of his hands. [I gather he would be a wiz at pounding dough in a pizza shop.] Following the solos, Hansen appeared mid stage atop the platform to start the song. Jukebox Hero is a slower number with an ominous beat that becomes progressively more pounding. The band ended the song by doing a teaser, a short five second snippet from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The band then left the stage and returned in less than one minute to play three additional songs.

Foreigner 13. Long, Long Way from Home was the first encore song, an up tempo track after which Hansen told the crowd, “I need a medical marijuana prescription.” [I somehow get the feeling Hansen is a huge fan of the Cheech and Chong flicks because marijuana plays a central theme in these cult classics.]

14. I Want to Know What Love Is featured Jones on keyboard and Gimbel on lead guitar. Gimbel played a well executed solo on his light blue Fender Stratocaster. Although this is a slower song, it features a very catchy chorus.

15. Hot Blooded was the final song, a chugging number with a memorable sing along chorus. [One theme that ran throughout most of Foreigner’s set is the majority of the songs feature catchy choruses, one of the main reasons the band has sold 37.5 million records in the United States.]

Arash Moussavian Two flashback memories are worthy of mention. First, I recall standing outside The Stone in San Francisco on November 3, 1986, shortly after Slayer annihilated all living things at the tiny club on the Reign in Blood tour. A zealous fan, fresh from the carnage in the moshing pit, approached a younger, meek fan likely waiting for his parents to pick him up in front of the venue, and called him “a poseur,” presumably for not being rough and tumble enough. Shortly into Foreigner’s set, I knew my review would be very favorable. Does this qualify me as a poseur, much like that fan outside the Slayer concert some 23 years ago? Will I have to hire a bodyguard to protect my beleaguered frame once word spreads among the metal contingent of my positive review?

Second, I recall sitting in my older sister’s room during the late 1970s as she listened to Foreigner on an AM radio station. I intentionally mocked Lou Gramm off key, breaking my sister’s concentration as she sang along, and then running out of her room with her troll doll in hand salivating at the thought of pulling each strand of over the top hair off its plastic cranium. Due to her frustration at my antics, my sister cocked her solid pine clogs off of her feet and released them at my head with sniper like accuracy and with such force that the afro atop her head undulated like an underwater sea anemone hit by a strong tide. I owe my sister an apology.

Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Attorney
arashmoussavian@cal.berkeley.edu
www.linkedin.com/in/arashmoussavian

Posted in Concert Reviews | Tagged | 16,828 Comments

Motorhead

Concert Review: Motorhead
(San Francisco, CA, Warfield Theater, 05-10-09)

Arash Moussavian A select few rock/metal figures have withstood the test of time. Regardless of whether the focus was on bell bottoms in the 70’s, spandex in the 80’s, or god knows what in the 90’s (possibly flannel), these figures have transcended trends in fashion and music, garnering the respect of rock/metal fans as a whole. Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and Lemmy Kilmister (“LK”) fall in this category.

On October 5, 2009, a brisk San Francisco night, Motorhead laid siege for the second consecutive tour to the hallowed Warfield Theater (“WT”), the last time being on April 8, 2005 during the Inferno tour. In my humble opinion, WT is currently the best Bay Area venue for a rock concert. Many moons ago (25 +/- years), when I had a full head of hair and a gut that did not necessitate being sucked in at the sight of a pretty damsel, the best venues were three sister venues, The Stone in San Francisco, The Omni in Oakland (East Bay), and One Step Beyond in Santa Clara (South Bay). These venues, owned by John Nady of Nady Systems who invented the revolutionary wireless guitar technology, were the hotbed of shows spanning genres from glam, to thrash, to death metal from the mid 1980’s to early 1990’s. Sadly the insurgence of the pseudo lumberjack flannel-toting brigade from the Northwest in 1991 symbolized the death knell for these venues.

Warfield Theater WT, captured on Slayer’s 2001 DVD entitled, War at the Warfield, is a 2,500 seat capacity theater built in 1927 and renovated in September 2008. WT’s layout presents a dichotomy. On the one hand, the theater’s beauty is exemplified by intricate frescos of matadors and angels painted on the ceiling atop the stage. Box seats that have long been put out of use adorn each side of the stage and the walls of the seated balcony are a vibrant plum red and gold combination. On the other hand, the standing room only floor has a stark industrial feel with black walls and floor. The walls are carpet padded, serving a safety function for your injury prone writer who trounced around like a whirling dervish at Slayer and Megadeth shows.

Motorhead was supported by two bands, Nashville Pussy (“NP”) and Reverend Horton Heat (“RHH”). NP was the first to take the stage. Sadly, I missed NP. My girlfriend’s birthday celebration took priority. After a plea-laden request to the misses, I broke away and arrived at WT at 8:35, within a few minutes after the end of NP’s set that began at 8:00. My natural inclination was to head for front row in the pit, almost as if beckoned by an oversized magnet drawing the metal plates in my Dr. Martens [and possibly one in my head]. Upon grasping the barricade lining the photo pit, I felt like an infant who had been handed his pacifier. I just needed someone to rub my tummy and I would have been in sheer heaven.

Next on stage was RHH, a three-piece rockabilly Texas band who put on an entertaining show. RHH played a 57-minute set from 8:48 to 9:45.

Phil Campbell Shortly before Motorhead took the stage I looked behind me and it was clear this was a sold out show, like Motorhead’s 2005 gig. The crowd did not grow restless as the band had the courtesy of avoiding the Axl Rose syndrome, punctually taking the stage at 10:15 after a 30 minute set change.

The band appeared to be in good spirits, at least Phil Campbell (“PC”) and Mikkey Dee (“MD”). [Maybe I am not a good judge of character, but I have difficulty gauging LK’s state of mind. In an ideal world LK’s warts would serve as something akin to mood rings, changing colors to reflect his mood. Sorry, I digressed.] What I know for certain is that LK wore what he has for many years, black jeans, a Western style long sleeve black shirt, and black leather boots. As for MD, he recently finished his obligation to a Swedish reality based show, permitting him to join the band on tour and relinquishing the services of fill in drummer Matt Sorum. No disrespect to Sorum, but MD’s prior tenure in King Diamond’s band speaks volumes about his prowess.

Having secured the final spot along the barricade, I had the dubious distinction of being within three feet of the amplifiers stacked stage right. Normally this would not be of great concern. However, my last Motorhead experience and the warning of a Steamhammer Records representative during two recent phone conversations raised concern that was cemented when the show started. The only concerts I recall being as loud are Slayer’s show at The Stone during the Reign in Blood tour (11-03-86), Paul Stanley’s show at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, New York during his first solo tour (02-27-89), and Kiss’s show at The Stone during the Revenge club tour (04-23-92).

Motorhead played 18 songs. I will refrain from commenting on each song. However, for the benefit of providing a full picture of the metal onslaught, I enumerate all the songs Motorhead performed. [I recall my frustrations as a pubescent teenager reading otherwise well written reviews in Kerrang, Metal Hammer, and Aardschok where the writer only mentioned some songs performed live. Doing so is analogous to foreplay without sex.]

Lemmy 1. Iron Fist, a fast, furious, and heavy song opened the set.

2. Stay Clean.

3. Be My Baby.

4. Rock Out.

5. Metropolis, a slow grinding song, was fifth in order. Following this song, PC, who wore a black blazer, blank tank top, black derby, blue jeans and Converse sneakers yelled to the crowd, “Make some noise.” Incidentally, the strap for his white Les Paul guitar was embossed with the phrase, “Bristol Bitch.” [I gather the long standing male tradition of naming possessions is not limited to muscle cars.]

6. Over the Top, a groove-laden track, followed Metropolis.

7. I Got Mine.

8. One Night Stand, a heavy, trudging song, was next in cue and followed by a short two minute PC guitar solo. Fortunately the days of drawn out solos where guitarists like to demonstrate the nimbleness of their fingers is mainly over, Yngwie Malmsteen being an exception.

9. The Thousand Names of God.

10. Another Perfect Day. This song featured plenty of echoplex effect from PC’s guitar.

11. In the Name of Tragedy, a song Motorhead performed live a few nights earlier on a late night television show called, “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” was twelfth in order. This is a fast song that featured MD’s five minute drum solo. What can be said about drum solos? Unless the drummer pulls down his drawers and hits the snare drum with his pecker it has pretty much been done before dating back to the days of Ginger Baker of Cream, John “Bonzo” Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and the late great Cozy Powell of Rainbow/Black Sabbath fame. However, MD did focus on double bass drums and floor toms, delivering a very heavy solid solo that began and ended with fog-based flash pods detonating within a few feet of each side of his massive Sonor drum kit.

12. Just ‘Cos You Got Power is a song LK introduced as being “about politicians.” This is a slower song that nevertheless features an eery PC riff.

13. Going to Brazil was next in cue, which LK introduced as “an old song.” This is an up tempo track with a very strong blues feel. PC had switched to an orange sunburst Explorer with a strap that read, “Welsh Wanker.” [Although I did not see PC engage in any wanking, he did twice extend greetings to MD by raising his middle finger, demonstrating his proficiency in sign language.]

Arash Moussavian 14. Killed by Death was next. As I was head banging with eyes closed, the music that permeated my brain with a dwindling cell count formed the image of a freight train billowing and forcefully chugging down a long stench filled tunnel. At the start of the song, a scraggly fellow wearing a white t-shirt and baseball cap came on stage to accompany LK on lead vocals. I initially thought it was James Hetfield of Metallica because he often attends metal shows at WT. I was wrong. I could not identity this person. [Since the band did not identify the guest singer, I presume he is not well known. His claim to fame may be to ensure LK’s beard is kept in sell chiseled form.] Towards the latter part of the song, MD added flavor by flicking about five pairs of drum sticks out of his hand high into the air back towards the backdrop featuring the album cover while quickly grabbing new sticks to continue his pulsating beat.

15. Bomber was the next song, a fast up tempo groove-laden track.

At 10:28 the band left the stage and returned after two minutes to play three songs.

16. Whorehouse Blues, an acoustic song, was the surprising choice to start the encore. MD and PC sat on stools playing acoustic guitars, while MD also played a bass drum and hi hats. LK stood center stage sans his Rickenbacker. LK initially looked a bit awkward or, more aptly, “naked,” without his axe, which soon wore off when he began playing his harmonica, further accentuating the bluesy feel of the song.

17. Ace of Spades was the second encore song. It brought back memories of repeatedly listening to this song off the very first rock record I acquired, No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith,” a gift from my older brother who bought it while living in Manchester. At the end of the song LK stated this was likely the “best audience in SF the band has had.” PC leaned forward and handed me a beer cup and asked me to pass it around. [I resisted the urge to chug the beer in its entirety even though I was physically drained from the nearby moshing and crowd surfing. The last time I remember sharing a drink with strangers at a public event was at the midnight mass Christmas ceremony at Grace Cathedral when the pastor offered me wine symbolizing Jesus Christ’s blood.]

18. Overkill brought the show to a mind numbing, testosterone laced climax. This, along with Killed by Death and Ace of Spades, were the top three songs of the night.

Two flashback memories are worthy of mention. First, as I left the venue, my mind flashed back to the Judas Priest/Anthrax show at WT on the Demolition tour (01-19-02). One reason that is a memorable show is because it was my ex girlfriend’s first rock concert. As we left the venue she vigorously sucked in air while tapping the interior of her teeth with her tongue. I asked her why she was acting as if she was wearing ill fitting dentures. She responded with some concern, “The concert was so loud I think some of my teeth have been knocked loose.” I came close to feeling the same at this show.

Second, even though Motorhead did not perform any songs off Orgasmatron (released in 1986), the performance of two songs off Orgasmatron’s predecessor, Another Perfect Day, brought back memories of the band’s in store appearance at a long defunct San Francisco record store called, “The Record Vault” during the Orgasmatron tour. Some readers may recall seeing Metallica, Venom, Slayer, and Death Angel band members donning the store’s black t shirt featuring a white logo and demon. Once the autograph seeking fans left the store, the owner closed shop but the band and crew remained. A crew member pulled out a fairly large, clear Ziploc bag. This bag contained pills and capsules of every conceivable color. It was like Skittles, but in hallucinogenic substance form.

Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Attorney
arashmoussavian@cal.berkeley.edu
www.linkedin.com/in/arashmoussavian

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