Last night my wife and I drove out to the Honda Center to take in a concert, something we just don’t do often enough anymore. Once upon a time it seems we were always going to concerts. It was the thing to do. As we headed down the 57 Freeway I began tripping down memory lane thinking about all the concerts I’ve attended. Before meeting my wife in early 1972 I’d already been to quite a few concerts. I’d seen Iron Butterfly and the Seeds at Pasadena Civic a few times but my first real concert was on my 17th birthday at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, September 5, 1968. Happy birthday to me!
It was memorable. We were there to see Jimi Hendrix, the first of 4 times that I got to see Jimi. The Soft Machine and Vanilla Fudge opened for him. Unfortunately Hendrix was kind of a drag that night. First he wouldn’t start his set until everyone was away from the stage. Once he started playing hordes of people crowded the stage. He immediately stopped playing and brought down the curtain. Over and over the announcer repeated the same message “Jimi Hendrix will not return until everyone has moved away from the stage.” After what seemed like forever he was back on stage and the crowd again moved forward. Well he stopped playing and walked off the stage yet again! After another ten or fifteen minute waste of time he returned. This time he continued even though a smaller group of fans had pressed forward towards the stage. And he really didn’t say much to the audience that night, but then we were there to hear him play not banter with fans. Although Hendrix was good that night, the real star of the evening was Vanilla Fudge. They were absolutely incredible! They played with energy, intensity and passion and really rocked the place! That particular night VF was far better than Hendrix but that’s just my opinion.
Yes before meeting my wife to be I’d also seen a triple bill at the Hollywood Bowl in July 0f 1968 featuring The Doors, Steppenwolf and The Chambers Brothers! Awesome concert! All three bands were incredible. It was my second time seeing the Doors. The first time was at the Carousel Theater in West Covina. The doors with opening act The Sunshine Company. It was an odd billing but a good concert. Morrison was so wasted that first time. When he played “Unknown Soldier and fell to the ground as if shot, most people wondered if the Lizard King would be able to get back up. He did and though he was out of tune on several songs it was thrilling just the same to watch and listen to him. He was much better at the Bowl.
I also got to see the Seeds, Iron Butterfly, Chicago Transit Authority, Ballin’ Jack, Moody Blues, Spirit, and the Steve Miller Band. And those are just the concerts I remember! I’m sure there were others, but like Morrison, sometimes I was a little too wasted. Like the time my friend and I saw Hendrix and Spirit at the Newport Pop Festival in June of 1969 held at Devonshire Downs in Northridge . We were stoned! We stood there for quite awhile listening and cheering with our backs to the stage facing the wrong way! Some chick finally helped us out and pointed us in the right direction. What a night! Wasted! But hey it was the 60’s! What’s that quote “if you can remember the 60’s, you weren’t there?”
I believe the first concert my wife and I ever attended together was Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown back in 1972 at Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino. Excellent concert! That was quickly followed by a Doors tribute sans Jim Morrison at the Hollywood Bowl. Why we went to see the three remaining Doors members is beyond me. Although the keyboardist Ray Manzarek did a pretty good job filling in for Jim on vocals, without Jim The Doors were nothing. Even the constant invocation of Jim’s spirit, and call’s of “Jim’s here with us right now! Can you feel him? Can you feel him?” by Manzarek, fell flat. Although it was a beautiful night at the Bowl, frankly I wasn’t feeling it.
Through the years we’ve seen some great entertainers together, the likes of Steeley Dan, Bread, Cat Stevens, Moody Blues, The Fixx, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Donovan, Supertramp, Eagles, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Alice Cooper, Don, Henley,Gary Puckett, Eric Burdon, John Fogerty, Joe Cocker, Roger Hodgson, Neil Diamond, Bette Midler, Celine Dion and Elton John. I’m sure I’m forgetting some but hey blame it on my age, drugs or whatever! I even went to Sir Paul McCartney something I thought I’d never ever do.
Being a John Lennon fan I swore I’d never pay to see McCartney the muzak man. But then several years ago a friend invited us to see Paul in Las Vegas and offered us tickets free of charge. How could I not go? I never saw the Beatles, and here was a chance to see at least one Beatle! The cute one even! I jumped all over it! I went flying my colors wearing a tee shirt with a huge image of John Lennon on the front and back in honor of my rock hero and to let everyone know where my loyalties lie. I had pretty much made up my mind that I wasn’t going to enjoy the concert but by the end of night I was a believer, McCartney had turned me. I was very impressed. Probably one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, definitely in my top 5. Would I see him again. I think so, I’d even pay to see him next time!
Last nights concert was opened by Cyndi Lauper whose 80’s hits “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time” Propelled her up the charts. I have to tell you her band was tight and her singing voice was incredibly strong. I really enjoyed all the songs the did in their set. Who would have thunk it? Then the star of the evening made her grand appearance Lady Cher! She still looks incredible at 68 and her smoky, full and low, sexy voice is soulful, bright and clear and still moves me today as it did back in the “I Got You Babe” days. Now I can add superstar, diva and icon Cher to my list and Cyndi lauper too! We’ve always wanted to see her and she was incredible. What a woman!
Was it everything I had hoped for and more? Sadly no. I had hoped to get a glimpse of Cher more up close and personal, instead we were treated to her Las Vegas extravaganza, complete with with glitzy,dazzling effects, amazing lighting and talented dancers and backup singers, but that’s a story for another blog.
Let me just say that I thoroughly felt like I was in a Las Vegas showroom. When the show ended and we stepped outside I half expected to see The Paris, MGM Grand or Cesar’s Palace, but was greeted by the Big A across the 57 freeway instead.