So this post has been sitting in my draft box for quite a while now. And then after I read about this particular concerto-phile’s recap of her year in concerts, I just had to put forth my own recap. After all, I have her beat pretty damn good! 😛
Living in Des Moines in Iowa, there are two ways to look at the ability to go to concerts. The more popular frame of reference, and one that is perhaps quite obvious too, involves noting the glaring lack of big name bands coming to town and instead choosing to go to any or all of the bigger cities around Des Moines – Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City et al. It is almost like the bands just don’t SEE Iowa – they simply go around it. Now the other line of thinking essentially involves the ability to travel to ANY of these aforementioned bigger cities (and that too on a date of my convenience) to see most of the big acts that travel through the United States. Needless to say, I choose to classify myself under the latter category of people. And have I reaped my rewards or what?!!?
I have said this before but I will say it again.
When I want to go to a concert, the universe conspires with me to make it happen.
And again, I can only hope not to get jinxed by saying so. But in all seriousness, looking back to 2012, there is simply no other way of interpreting the sheer number AND quality of the concerts I went to. So here goes:
1. Puscifer in Omaha, NE: There is something about Maynard Keenan’s Live voice that can take you to a place you haven’t been before. I had seen him Live as A Perfect Circle in 2011 and I was haunted then. Puscifer was even better. The show itself was more like a theater play complete with props and filler videos showing Maynard Keenan as General Douche. It was clear that he wanted to do more than just sing. He wanted to teach. (Among the many memorable quotes, sample this: “Good aliens listen to Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and the Glee soundtrack. Bad aliens listen to Tool!”) And the concert was handcrafted to help in that regard. I wrote 1 part of what was supposed to be a 2 part review back then. But clearly, no amount of reviewing can capture the calling of that haunting voice when you hear it Live. Add to that the most unlikeliest of scripting for a concert, and you probably already know you will be thinking about it for a long time to come.
2. George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic All Stars in Council Bluffs, IA: Funk has been something I discovered only in the past one year (and to this day, I cannot figure out why). Funkadelic, on the other hand, well – let’s just say I knew every single note of Maggot Brain. I have very fond memories, from back in undergrad, of being in a ‘higher’ state of mind and playing the song’s arpeggios on my acoustic and on an infinite loop. So what if Eddie Hazel is no more? Michael Hampton played the whole song note for note – 10 ft in front of me, and at a bar. But that was just the beginning. George Clinton maybe 71 years old, but the energy he shows on stage is more fitting for a 25 year old. Still singing with a respectable voice, he even smoked a joint on stage. Sir, You have my seal of approval! I am just glad that I got to see him live and in such an intimate setting before age (finally) takes over him.
3. Megadeth and Rob Zombie in Sioux City, IA: I had seen Megadeth once before in Bangalore, the most significant memory from which was the extremely horrible sound quality on stage. And I had vowed to watch them again if I ever got the chance to. I did get the opportunity and I did take it. Much closer to Dave Mustaine and the band this time around, I headbanged my way through Hangar 18, In My Darkest Hour, Holy Wars and much more. Redemption was indeed complete.
I have to admit I have not listened to much of Rob Zombie. But it barely mattered. That dude has a stage presence incomparable to any I have seen. Filled with massive and creepy robotic props, he lit the stage on fire – quite literally too! The pyrotechnics was phenomenal and I headbanged some more.
It had been a while since I had been to an outright loud metal concert and this will surely take care of that need for the near future. On a side note, I have to add that I had an extremely bad inflammation in my neck muscle as a result of all the headbanging. It took more than 6 months for the pain to reduce to manageable levels. The real awkward moment was when I had to explain the cause to the doctor.
4. Roger Waters at Wrigley Field in Chicago : What can I say? He was the first person I saw Live all the way back in 2002 in Bangalore in what was my first concert ever. And I had always fantasized about watching The Wall played Live with the same settings from the 1970s. I guess I really did indeed get to live out that fantasy. The simple fact of the matter is that The Wall just sounds too damn good in a stadium. This is not just something you will brag about when you are talking to your friends about concerts. This is the kind of stuff you tell your grandchildren about. This is the kind of stuff you can look back on and know that you made the right choices all your life to have ended up at Wrigley Field on June 8 2012.
In any case, I did recollect my full experience from the concert some time back and I am so glad I did it. (I still pride myself over the fact that I convinced my friend to cough up $300 for the ticket through a text message. Practically conned her into wiring me the money!)
5. Radiohead in Chicago: I had never been a fan of Radiohead (apart from Karma Police) for the longest time. Other than the result of a handful of friends strongly recommending the band to me, I somehow was never able to get into their music. Then something happened about a year ago when I went back to NITK to say hello to my undergrad Professors. I stayed over at my cousin’s hostel room and let us just say certain ‘completely natural’ things were consumed. It was at this point that my esteemed cousin (also the official slacker of NITK) told me he would play a song and wanted me to tell him how I felt. About 5 mins later, I am in a trance. The song has taken me places I had never been before. I particularly recollect this very strong and desperate feeling building inside me just wishing that the song wouldn’t end. But when it did end, I just asked my cousin which song it was. And to this day, I have a crystal clear memory of what he said, and more importantly, how he said it. He told me: “The song’s name is ‘How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found Again'”. It was almost like a revelation – like I had suddenly become aware of some arcane, hidden mysterious knowledge. It was probably in the way he said it, but for a moment, I believed that the song really possessed the secret of how to disappear completely and never be found again. And then, right at that very moment, I began to worship Radiohead.
So it was kind of ironic (to my cousin) when I learnt that Radiohead would be playing in Chicago the same weekend that Roger Waters was playing at Wrigley Field. A $15 ticket later, I found myself at Tinley Park with both my hands over my head, mouth open and staring in simple disbelief to the sheer profundity of the situation. There may not have been any natural substances this time around, but I perhaps didn’t need them. Thom Yorke’s voice is up there with all the best voices I have heard Live. And yes, he will take you places too! They played one of the longest setlists and I have a recording of the entire concert that I keep listening to even today. Another instance when I just wish it didn’t have to end.
6. Black Sabbath in Chicago: There are certain things that can make life worth living and help validate all those choices you have made all your life. The night I saw Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza will definitely rank high up on that list of things. To see the very people who have defined 2 generations of music, to whom so many many bands today owe their influences – to see them play all those songs right in front of you is a tremendous experience. Black Sabbath played EVERY single song that I wanted them to. Every one of them – including Snowblind and Fairies Wear Boots. Considering this was their ONLY show in North America after Toni got diagnosed with cancer, I just feel so blessed and fortunate to have been there. I might have already seen Ozzy at Ozzfest, but this is something I will tell my grandchildren and probably put it on my epitaph.
6. Grace Potter and The Nocturnals in Des Moines: If you like going to concerts, you must go to a Grace Potter show as a matter of general principle. This is irrespective of whether you like her music or if you have even heard of her at all. If Grace Potter and The Nocturnals are playing in your city, you simply MUST go! Yes it definitely helps if you like her music – a catchy and melodious blend of pop, rock and even some country – but you will love her shows nonetheless. I had seen her at Kansrocksas in 2011 for the first time ever and I didn’t even know who she was back then. And so when I learnt that she was coming to Des Moines, there was simply no way I was going to miss the show.
She played for over 2.5 hours, a setlist that included a Rolling Stones cover (because it was Mick Jagger’s birthday) and a Heart cover (Crazy on You). Her new album has more than a few songs co-written by Dan Auberbach (of The Black Keys) and when played Live, they can really get you in the groove! Add to that, Grace Potter’s passion and enthusiasm on stage along with her beautiful voice, and you have a concert experience worth remembering. In an interview just before the concert, she had remarked, “I play every concert like it is my last.” And she is not lying. Not by any stretch. There were periods during the show when it seemed that the audience let the music take a backseat and instead let her performance fill their experience. Her stage presence will rival any performer that has ever played at a concert. And those who have seen her Live will definitely attest to that.
That Grace Potter show by the river and overlooking downtown Des Moines is definitely among the top 5 concerts I have ever been to.
Special mention to Natalie Prass -the opening act for Grace Potter. Some of the best music I had heard in ages and definitely one of the best voices around right now. Must check it out.
7. Death Cab for Cutie in Des Moines: I just like Death Cab. There is no other way to put it. Simple, straightforward melodious alternative music with songs (almost exclusively) about breakups and troubled relationships. Ben Gibbard plays a good show and I was definitely happy to see so many of the songs I loved played Live at 80/35 music festival.
8. Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan in Omaha: Simply put, I grew up with the music of Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler’s voice was synonymous with and perhaps the cause of my transition from death metal to more classic rock. And for the longest time, I have been troubled by the fact that I could not watch him Live when he came to play in Bangalore. Not to mention my good friends who did go to the concert have constantly reminded me of that ever since. I could not care less that Mark Knopfler was playing mainly his solo songs when I came to know about his concert in Omaha. I just had to see him Live to absolve myself of my past misdeeds. And really, you did not need to know any of his solo songs to let his voice mesmerize you. He still has that voice for sure – not changed one bit. And that was all that I needed to hear. A lot of my friends went to see him in the current tour and were disappointed that he only played ‘So Far Away’ from his Dire Straits catalog. But fact is, his solo songs are equally good and I am not sure if my friends were familiar with his solo work. In any case, I had a bonus thrown my way when I heard him play the intro to ‘Brothers in Arms’. Turns out, that was the only show in his entire tour (at least that I am aware of) wherein he played Brothers in Arms in addition to So Far Away – and I do not have any complaints about that!
And then came on Bob Dylan. Well, I knew his voice was shot and all that – but still, he was Bob Dylan. So I was looking forward to him playing as well. If Mark Knopfler’s voice had the ability to mesmerize you, Bob Dylan’s voice had the ability to give any death metal band’s vocalist a run for his money! No kidding – it was THAT bad. It was so bad that I could not even know which song he was singing. His songs were reminiscent of the Hindu priest conducting a ceremony – wherein his long and incomprehensible chanting is followed by a loud and prominent SWAAHA! at the end. I realized Dylan was playing one of my favorite songs – Tangled up in Blue – only about halfway through the song when I deciphered him speaking out the words “Tangled up in Blue”. His current concerts really are a disgrace to the legacy that he seeks to leave. So much so, I actually walked out of his concert before he was done. Even for the sake of it, I would not recommend anyone paying money to watch Bob Dylan live. Not anymore definitely.
So there you have it! A long post recollecting my best experiences from 2012. Without a doubt, I have a lot to look back upon and so I consider 2012 successful. I already have a nice run of concerts coming up for 2013. Already watched Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (AGAIN) Live in Des Moines. Upcoming are Omar Rodriguez’s new band Bosnian Rainbows, Fleetwood Mac, Steven Wilson and Sigur Ros. All tickets have been purchased and I am looking forward to these things like always. Maybe I will write a separate review for each of these this time around. Maybe.