January 19, 2015

GRAHAM NASH - King Center, Melbourne, FL 1/13/15

Live @ The King Center for the Performing Arts

All art & photos (c) "Java" John Goldacker

My very first concert at The King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Florida was David Crosby & Graham Nash almost exactly 23 years ago, on January 17th, 1992. It was a magical night at the King Center that night, as was last night with Graham Nash. 

 For some odd reason although I love so much of Graham's material, I never really considered what the song selection might be like tonight. So when he opened with "Bus Stop"...I just smiled ear to ear. I forgot for a minute that he was in the Hollies! He quickly followed that one up with "King Midas in Reverse", probably my favorite Hollies' song of his. Graham mentioned it possibly being the best psychedelic pop songs of the 60's.  I think he might be on to something there!  

Graham mentioned having just broken up with Joni Mitchell while introducing "I Used to be a King" the longest tune that was on Nash's solo debut recording "Songs for Beginners". The original recording featured Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar. Tonight Graham was accompanied by Shane Fontaine, who handled harmonies, and guitar nailing every lead required throughout the night. I looked Shane up online, and he's got quite a resume...which is worth investigating. He worked with everyone from Springsteen, to Ian Hunter, to Joe Cocker, and my pal Freebo. 

 Up next was a beautiful new tune (the first of 7 new songs), called, I believe, "Golden Days", and then a plaintive "Simple Man", following those two with a string of tunes that really made me think that in a large part, Nash was the conscience of CSN&Y. 

"Military Madness" kicked off that set of very emotional songs, followed by "In Your Name", along with "Burning for Buddha" a tune discussing  the 150 Tibetan Monks who have set themselves on fire in protest of China's treatment of Tibet. Some of lyrics are "There's a fire in my belly like the surface of the sun. I lay my life down, for the Holy one. I'm burning, for the Buddha. There's nothing left to give, and nothing left to live, for.", and "Almost Gone" a commentary on the unfair imprisonment of Bradly Manning with powerful lyrics like "Tell the truth and it will set you free. That's what they taught me as a child. But I can't be silent now, for all I've seen and done." and "All I did was blow the whistle and the game began. I did my duty to my country first, that's what they taught me as a man.  But I can't be silent now, for all I've seen and done, and oh my life, I'm almost done". 

Nash then introduced the next song saying, "So one day David says, 'Come sailing'. So I thought, hmmm, nice Sunday afternoon, smoke a joint, go out there on the ocean, then smoke another joint, and get on with it, you know?...No. I was on David's boat for 9 weeks! From Ft. Lauderdale, to San Francisco!"  He then described seeing a Blue Whale just off the bow of David's 85ft Yacht, The Mayan, and how that experience helped inspire the writing the song "Wind on the Water". He and Shane played an amazing version of the tune, with Nash on keyboards. But first Graham rolled tape of the beautiful a Capella intro to that song on the album "Critical Mass". Very nice. 

The two wrapped up the first set with a much needed (?) up beat tune "Our house" telling the story of then girlfriend Joni Mitchell and him at going to an antiques store, and upon arriving home Graham stated, "You know, I'll light the fire...why don't you, you put some flowers, in that vase...that you bought today".  I was particularly moved by two teenage girls in the row behind singing at the top of their lungs! As Graham mention during the set, "If I can't move you with my voice, and guitar, I've got no business being here". Well, obviously he still does. 

During that last tune, I received a text from Graham's tour manager letting me know that my posters were waiting at the merchandise booth! I had drawn a portrait of Graham during the last week, what's new? His people were kind enough to arrange to have a few copies signed by Graham for my brother, a friend, and I. Thank you all! 

The second set started off with five more new songs: "Here For You" a simple tune (what Graham does best) about being a Grandfather, the introspective "Myself, at Last",  "Watch Out for the Wind" about Michael Brown.  The final song in this set was "Back Home" written about his friend the great Levon Helm after he passed away. "Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, at the speed of light time slowly passes. And at the end I guess nothing matters, so live your life before the wind, scatters you back home."  Beautiful. He ended that string of new songs with a blues number called "Exit Zero". 

Winding down the show Nash gave the great psychedelic introduction to one of my all time favorite tunes "Cathedral". A song about his "trip" to Stonehenge, and Winchester Cathedral. Listen to the lyrics. Then Graham told the story about a guy he was visiting in Hawaii, who bet him $500 he that couldn't write a hit song in the hour before he was to leave for the airport. After the song he said that he still has the check! As you might have guessed that song was "Just a Song Before I Go". Following that he said, "The truth is, without all the drugs, the egos, and the money, we could have made a lot more great music. So here's a song I wrote about that, called 'Wasted on the Way'." 

Graham and Shane closed the evening with two of Nash's greatest and most enduring songs the amazing "Chicago". It is a biting commentary that refers to both the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as well as the trial of the Chicago Eight, where protesters at the convention were charged with intent to incite a riot. Then, of course the show ended with the sing along "Teach Your Children". This is the song that made bring my brother Ralph because it was favorite. 

I have seen 11 concerts, of variations seminal line-up CSN&Y in the last 40 years. I must say, the magic is still in those tunes, and it's best enjoyed LIVE!  

Tune into "On the FlipSide with me, Java John Saturdays 6-8pm on WFIT! www.wfit.org

January 09, 2015

A New Year's State of Mind, With A Little Help From My Friends. Billy Joel In Concert.

New Year's Eve 12/31/14

From the moment he took the stage with the one-two punch of "Miami 2017 (I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway), and "Pressure," Orlando knew that Billy Joel was in for the long haul! "Miami" has always been my favorite tune by the Piano Man, and it was an especially nice way to kick off this night, because it's in this tune that he sings, "Before we all lived here in Florida," which of course, drove the joint crazy! I knew I was in for a special night. 

But first ... let me back up a bit, 39 (gulp!) years ago! That was the only other time I ever had tickets to see Billy in concert at the Guzman Hall in Miami, Halloween night, 1977. I woke up with the worst flu that day. Could not go. Bummer. But my Dad and I listened to the simulcast on Zeta-4 that night. It was great. But the radio duped us: when he impersonated other stars such as Springsteen and Paul Simon, those of us at home listening thought the stars were actually there!! That is, until he introduced his last “guest,” Joe Cocker. Part way through "You are So Beautiful," Billy's voice cracked, and we realized it was him all along! By the way, comparing set lists, this New Year’s Eve Billy played 11 songs that he played that night in Miami, including a partial "You Are So Beautiful," the first tribute to his friend Joe that he did for us (because Joe passed away the week before).  

Back in ’77, I knew I had to see Billy someday. I just thought it would have been a lot sooner! But that's OK; it was worth the wait!  

Allow me to back up a few years again ... not so far this time! ... My wife and I had a list of artists we wanted to see together, if they ever came in concert, before her cancer inevitably took her. At the top of that list were McCartney, Ringo, Green Day, Heart, Journey, Fleetwood Mac ... and Billy Joel. Well, we got to see ALL of those artists in her last 5 years, except Billy. So, I knew I HAD to see Billy on THIS night, because New Year's Eve was also the 19th Anniversary of my wedding to Jennifer. 

Knowing I could probably not be able to afford a ticket or two for this show, I decided to post a trade online: a decent ticket or two for a print of my new Billy Joel portrait, and an original autographed drawing of Billy that I did 15 years ago. I got a few bites, but nothing serious ... so I took my work to the Amway Center two hours before show time, and went to hang with the scalpers. As soon as they saw what I had to offer, they all were on my side when someone who had an extra ticket came along. Eventually John from South Jersey (fittingly) came up. He and his (very nice) family were in town to see the concert but ended up with an extra ticket. So he made the trade, I was in, with 10 minutes til show time!  Sitting 11th Row center! 

When the lights went down, first on was … who is that? A local talent? Hold on, it's Rufus Wainwright! Too kool! A nice five or six tune set. Of course, he played his version of “Hallelujah” (from Shrek), and he finished with his awesome version of “Across The Universe.” How perfect! Before he played his last tune, he wanted to acknowledge family in the audience: his Aunt from Stuart, Fla., and his husband. Wow, he introduced his husband. In Florida. And we cheered! I did not hear one boo or hiss ... just applause.
Very nice. Restored my hope for humanity!

Between his opening tunes and midnight, Billy Joel played an amazing set, including: “The Entertainer,” “Vienna,” “The Stranger,” “Zanzibar,” “Movin' Out (Anthony's Song),” “All for Leyna,” “Allentown,” “New York State of Mind” (with Rufus Wainwright), “My Life” (with a “Jingle Bells” intro), “Sometimes a Fantasy,” “She's Always a Woman,” “Don't Ask Me Why,” an awesome “River of Dreams,” and then … at eight minutes to midnight, Billy covered Joe Cocker's Woodstock version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” with beautiful ‘60s colored lighting. Very classy. 

As Billy counted down to midnight, I texted a Happy New Year to my son, who I really wish was there (but he kinda was anyway). After the countdown, Billy led a full, rousing “Auld Lang Syne.” That was followed with the introduction of AC/DC's singer Brian Johnson (?!), who resides in the Tampa Bay area, I believe. I'm not a huge AC/DC fan, but a rocking version of AC/DC's “You Shook Me All Night” (with Billy on red electric guitar) seemed to be the perfect way to bring in the New Year!  

 That was followed by the set-closers: “Big Shot,” “Souvenir,” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” I felt the strong presence of my wife, and Dad, throughout the course of the evening, but never more than that last tune. 

The band came back for encores: “It's Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “You May Be Right,” “Only the Good Die Young,” and the finale, “Piano Man,” after which Billy said, “Happy New Year, and remember – Don’t drink and drive. Drink and take a limousine, like me!” New Years come, and New Years go...but some things never change! 

Postscript: as I was writing this piece, I looked for some of Billy the Kid on YouTube. I found Live on Long Island, his 1983 HBO Concert. Wow, it's been a long time! 

BY THE WAY...If you happen to be going to NEW YORK CITY
this year, 
Billy Joel performs at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
almost every month! 

Also, be sure to tune into my weekly radio show
'On The FlipSide' w/Java John
Saturdays @ 6pm - www.wfit.org

all photos and artwork (c) John Goldacker