Round IV - My Continuing Adventures As A San Francisco Rock Journalist
IN THIS ISSUE:
An interview with PAUL RODGERS (and Simon Kirke) from BAD COMPANY!!
Concert reviews of:
BAD COMPANY w/ STYX and BILLY SQUIER at Chronicle Pavilion!!
RICKIE LEE JONES at Bimbos!!
BERLIN at St. James Park in San Jose!!
ani di franco at the Greek Theater!!
SADE at Shoreline Amphitheater!!
And even more ludicrous anecdotes about my "Almost Famous-ness"!!
Due to the incredible amount of stuff that kept happening last month, both personally and professionally (is there any difference in my life?) - and the fact that our illustrious publisher decided, at press time, to change his little newsrag to a mid-monthly making June become July I was forced to cram the mass amount of May stuff into the last issue and save the June stuff for this one. (The only reason the June 13 Dido story made it into last months mini-novel was because it was our illustrious publisher - and famous Gemini Gene Mahoneys birthday and what the king says goes round here.) So all you Bad Company and Rickie Lee Jones fans (and you know who you are) have had to patiently wait by the monthly newsstand. Here, my faithful classic rock/pop lovers, is your light at the end of the latest trend tunnel
"Runnin With The Press"
An interview with Paul Rodgers of Bad Company (June 6th)
Today was the day! After several weeks of conversing and planning with congenial manager Chris Crawford, I was moments away from interviewing the original lead singer of one of the most influential bands in rock history: Bad Companys Paul Rodgers! I was going to pick up the phone, call the Le Montrose Hotel in LA, and speak to "The Voice", certainly one of the greatest singers and hit after classic hit songwriters of our generation. After listening to "Anthology", Bad Companys double CD greatest hits collection (with two new songs!), extensive research, and my own interesting personal connection to this great band (which youve all come to expect and barely tolerate, I mean, look forward to) I was ready! But no! The desk clerk said there was no one listed under any of the names I had been given! Even the real ones! I called the publicist and she hadnt been told about a change in itinerary either! The band had vanished into thin air! Even the roadies! Several frantic phone calls back and forth to various people (there was a communication breakdown of some sort) many dashed and renewed hopes and an hour and change later, the phone rang from a hotel in San Diego, and heres what the pleasantly ingratiating, accommodating, fascinating, charming (and very apologetic) Paul Rodgers had to say to us:
Paul Rodgers: Hi Kimberlye!
Kimberlye Gold: Paul? Finally we speak!
PR: So sorry about the delay! Dont know what happened there.
KG: Thats okay, just one of those crazy press things. Weve been sitting here coming up with titles for the article like: "Good Interview Gone Bad."
KG: (laughing) Or: " He Wasnt Ready For Love", "Silver, Blue But Not Gold", and my personal favorite, "Runnin From The Press"!!
PR: Oh right, very good, yes, I get it. I want to think up one. How bout "Interview Steady"?? Nah
KG: Ha, ha!! But youre here; its all right now, Paul.
PR: "All Right Now"!
KG: (laughing) Yeah!! So before we get into the meat of our conversation, I have an opening question: Paul, its 2001 do you still take whatever you want?
PR: (purring) And baby, I want you
KG: (giggling like a 15 year old back in 77)
PR: Yeah, you know, it occurred to me recently, that song, "Cant Get Enough Of Your Love" has really stood the test of time, its one of Micks songs (Ralphs, Bad Co.s original guitar player) and I think that line, (sings) "Well I take whatever I want/And Baby I want you" is one of the best rock n roll lines ever written.
KG: It certainly has stuck with me.
PR: You know what, its like, (breathily) "Cmere baby, I want you " (pauses) and uh, somehow you girls seem to like that.
Excuse me I am dying. Gene, could you uh, leave the room for a minute?
KG: (laughing) Well, it depends on which one of us girls youre talking to at what time. (Yeah, right, Kim)
PR: Yes, it does.
KG: Well, I got to listen to the new songs today (off "Anthology") and man, you are singing great!
PR: Thank you.
KG: Your voice sounds amazing, I mean, you always sounded great, but your range has really increased since the old days.
PR: Yeah, Ive been practicing a lot actually. Really, the shows are my practice because Im always stretching and pushing and trying to find different ways of doing it, little innovations I can make with the music. I like to feel Im improving all the time.
And now, the dreaded, I mean, anticipated direct connection
KG: I have a funny little connection to the band, which is why its very cool that I get to speak with you today. I used to work in publicity for EastWest records in NY, so I was working with the band, but sadly, without you, Paul, and we wont discuss the imposters (Oh, yes we will)
PR: (laughing) "Imposters", I like that!
KG: But the rest of the guys were just great, in fact, Simon (Kirke, the original drummer, still in Bad Co.) actually saved us, because we had an interview set up for one of the imposters, who pulled a no-show, and Simon stepped in and did the interview for us!
PR: Well, Simons good like that.
KG: Okay, so between my own history with Bad Company and researching all the latest publicity bios and website information, Ive become well acquainted with the history and the current state of the band. I am very curious, in your own words, Paul, what precipitated your decision to leave the band, and why you decided to re-unite the band.
(I want "Behind The Music" dirt, man!)
Alas, dirt was not meant to be had
PR: Oooh, its a long story. Well, to cut it short, toward the end, which was the beginning of the 80s when I decided to make the move, I felt a bit locked into Bad Company. I wanted to branch out and find something I knew not what - I just wanted something else, you know? I tried different things. I put a studio in my house and I made a solo album where I played all the instruments and that was really challenging and interesting for me, because when I write a song, I can visualize in my head where the drums and the harmonies and the solos and everything will be. But it was so nice to actually paint the picture myself.
KG: Be your own producer.
PR: Yeah, and build it right up from scratch all the way up to the top, it was a fascinating thing. I learned a lot from that.
KG: I wasnt aware that you are the multi-instrumentalist that Ive read you are. People get locked into this box, "Oh, hes the lead singer.
PR: Well, Ive found if I want to speak the guitarists or the drummers or the bass players language, I need to know something about what they do, what its like for them, physically and emotionally. I cant really take it to their level, but I can at least speak their language a bit and thats why Ive made it a point of being a little bit of a jack of all trades on all the instruments. Singing is my real thing, and songwriting, but it gives me an insight about what their problems are and what inspires them, you know what I mean?
KG: Thats where the synchronicity lies when the songs come out. You can tell. Because Im a singer/songwriter as well and I play rhythm guitar (here I go again!) and I hear the drum and the bass parts in my head and they always make fun of me when I try to speak the "drum language".
PR: Yeah, so if you can actually get on the kit and show them So, Jimmy (Page) came out and started listening to what I was doing and he played me some ideas and we started writing.
KG: And thats how The Firm got started?
PR: Yeah, we got a call from Eric Claptons management saying they were doing a big charity event for multiple sclerosis, and Clapton was gonna be there, and Joe Cocker and Jeff Beck and a whole lot of great people, and could Jimmy (Page) and I put a band together
KG: The whole reason you started The Firm was because of this benefit?
Gene Mahoney: For Ronnie Lane? Oh, sorry to interrupt.
KG: Paul, this is our illustrious publisher and editor, Gene Mahoney. Say hello.
PR: Hi Gene!
GM: Hey Paul, how are ya? Yeah, memories are coming back from this interview today. I grew up on Long Island and I had this older friend from England who got me into Bad Company and also Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. (Who???) K.G.
PR: (laughing) Whoa, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates??? God!! Are they still going?
GM: I surfed the web and actually, they reformed in 1990 and put an album out, but I think my friend moved back to England.
PR: Wow. Well, they just dont come up with names like that anymore now, do they?
"I know what well call ourselves, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates!" Ha ha!!
KG: Thats almost as good as The Heavy Metal Kids! (Bad Companys original band name)
PR: Yeah, howd ya like to be stuck with that for the rest of your life?
GM: Tell us about the benefit, was it for Ronnie Lane?
PR: Yes, it was. We raised about a million bucks and it was actually one of the first big rock charity events, so it was a pioneer in a sense.
KG: Before Live Aid and all the other "Aids"? What year was this?
PR: 83 or 84. The Firm years were 85 and 86.
KG: Have you stayed in touch with Jimmy Page and the Led Zeppelin guys since the Swan Song Days (their first joint record label)?
PR: Yeah, we do, we have a lot in common. You know, they recently released "The Song Remains The Same" (the classic Led Zeppelin concert movie) on DVD and we watched it on the bus while we were traveling, and it was fascinating, actually, re-visiting old friends, like Peter Grant, the manager, and all the people in the background, "Oh look, theres Steve West, that lawyer, oh my God, he looks like hes 12 years old!!" (laughs)
KG: So you decided to leave and "branch out on your own" now I dont want to create bad blood where there isnt any, but was there tension at that time? Or were you just burnt out on Bad Company, the band?
(No, I will not give it a rest!)
PR: Well, I was a little burnt on the relationship that was Bad Company at that time. You gotta remember, wed been touring hard and heavy for a long time and you get to a point where you need some fresh blood, fresh imput into your life and I certainly got that. I did the solo thing, I did The Firm thing, and then I did a blues album, which was a tribute to Muddy Waters, which was Grammy nominated, and they invited a lot of different guitar players to play on that: Jeff Beck, Slash (!), Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Brian Setzer
KG: You must have had a blast!
PR: It was absolutely great, wonderful! It gave me an opportunity to be very creative. I wrote the title track and Buddy Guy was on it too! One of the highlights was to sit with Buddy Guy playing my song as a tribute to Muddy Waters and the two of us are jamming on an acoustic guitar, man!
KG: Oh my God, how inspiring!
PR: Yeah, it was really cool. So I did all of these things and I worked all over the world in solo bands with great, great people like Neal Schon from Journey and Howard Leese from Heart and Ive kinda come full circle in a way Im back with Bad Company and I enjoy very much playing with Kirke (Simon) again, cause hes a great drummer and under the Bad Company banner, its just all come together.
KG: How has it felt to play with "Bucket" (Dave Colwell) and Rick Wills (guitar player and bassist since Paul left the band)? When I worked with them (at Eastwest Records) I thought they were wonderful guys and great players and I bet they are absolutely thrilled to ultimately get to work with YOU! Theyre like kids, those guys! (like Im so mature)
PR: Well, theyre really into it, theyre fans, I mean, Im a fan, too, Ive never lost it, the fan aspect of being involved in music, cause thats part of my enthusiasm, yknow? And its great working with them, because they are sweethearts and they are really thrilled to be working with the original lead singer of Bad Company!
KG: Its all part of their rock n roll fantasy!
(Paul laughs and starts singing the song)
I had the "lovely" experience of working with both of the imposters, who desperately wanted to be YOU, so this has gotta be great - especially for Simon, who must be so relieved and inspired to get to work with you again.
PR: We are absolutely kicking each others butts, musically, in a good way and its great.
KG: Are you writing again? Because "Anthology" came out in 99.
PR: Yeah, I am, all the time, actually. The thing about it is, I did a solo tour in England and Australia right before this one, so Ive been piecing things together on the road. Ive got a beautiful miniature Taylor guitar. So Ive released a 6th solo CD, "Electric", and Im looking forward at the end of this tour to going off to disappear into the wilds of Canada and pull all my ideas together and make them cohesive and get them down on tape.
KG: Its great listening to the old stuff, but when you hear someone years later and the voice is better than ever, it inspires us to keep going. (and going, and going and )
PR: Thank you. I have a lot of inspiration too: Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, great people from way back from whom I really learned the craft
KG: The two singers that come to mind who took it from there and then everybody else followed suit are you and Rod Stewart. You both have that real blues influence in your phrasing and delivery.
PR: Yeah, I love Rod Stewart; hes a great singer. When I was a school kid I used to go see Rod Stewart and the Steam Packet in my hometown!
KG: Rod Stewart and the what???
PR: The Steam Packet! He was Rod The Mod with his hair all poofed out (unlike now? -K.G.) but baby, he could sing!!
KG: Did you know he had throat cancer?
PR: Oh no!
KG: He had an operation and hes singing again!
PR: Well, Im glad hes doing well cause bless him, he looks great!
KG: Im looking at a picture of you right now and you dont look like youre in such bad shape yourself, Paul! (heh heh)
PR: (laughing) Hey, thank you, my dear!
KG: How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
PR: Three - 30, 27, and 24.
KG: My God! (how can this be?) Have you been married all this time? Cmon Paul, give us some dirt!
PR: No, Ive been divorced for a number of years, about eight years now and I have a wonderful fiancée a Canadian lady and I dont know if Im allowed to say who it is. To someone in the room away from the receiver: Am I allowed to say who it is?
Back into the phone: Oh, uh, apparently not.
KG: (laughing) Well, congratulations! Ah, the mystery woman. Well, now our readers will know that you are attached just in case they were having other ideas.
Paul now becomes Heathcliff, Romeo, and half of the Backstreet Boys
PR: Well, I am attached to a wonderful angel, actually - complete with halo and wings.
Oh my! Take that, Eminem!! K.G
KG: Uh oh, I detect a lot of love songs on this next CD
PR: Shes turned my life around and made a new man of me!
KG: (gushing) Thats wonderful!
GM: (interrupting and completely changing the subject) Arent you a black belt, Paul?
PR: Yes, I did make that rank way back, I dont know if I can still cut it at that level, but I still try to keep fit, basically.
GM: Which kind of martial arts?
PR: (Says some Japanese word that sounds like, "Why Dont You").
GM: Uh, whats that?
PR: Japanese. Mr Suzuki, 8 stand.
GM: I take Jujitsu, is it like that? Or is it more like Karate?
PR: Jujitsus a different thing, its the forerunner of Judo, which is now in the Olympics, but Jujitsu is the "killing art" of Judo, its very, very lethal. The great thing I got from Karate, funny enough, was the meditation aspect and I find that it centers me and makes me see things very clearly that I perhaps was not seeing. When you do that, you can go ahead with your life with much more focus of where you are going and why.
GM (a.k.a. "Killer"): You went to a Dojo in England?
PR: Yes, I went to a number of Dojos in England and I visited Dojos in America while I was touring. I actually had a Karate instructor on the road with me during the Bad Company years and we would train every day, I was fit, my God! But now I do an hour an a half a day: 20 minutes aerobics on the bike, 40 minutes stretching, and a half hour with the weights, different muscle groups every day. It keeps me in pretty good stead.
KG: So Im sitting here asking you whos the woman in your life and getting you all emotional and Gene changes the channel to "The Man Show". (Everybody laughs) The yin and the yang!
And now, Paul Rodgers divulges the key to ultimate happiness and fulfillment: (take notes, Gene!)
PR: You know, I used to think that singing was just about the voice, but Ive come to realize its about the head, the heart, the body and the soul.
PR: You need to keep all of those things together and in harmony as much as possible. Meditation keeps my head straight, working out keeps my body in shape and love keeps my heart in shape. Music is the point at where it all meets.
KG: This is great stuff. The younger generation out there now doing this for whatever reasons serve them need to hear this because it is all intregal. (I have spoken!) How does it feel to know you have inspired a style of singing for an entire generation? Like Lou Graham (from Foreigner) and my friend Joe Lynn Turner (from Deep Purple and Rainbow) and everyone else after Bad Company, I dont recall anybody doing that before you.
PR: (humbly) Its funny, people ask me that and I dont know that I really have. To me, what I did was I listened to all these great
singers out there and I copied them, flat out copied them until I developed my own style, which is a mixture of all of the above, James Brown, all the blues guys and all the soul guys and I just soaked it all up! And whenever I hear a singer doing something that makes me go, "Oh, I like that!", I kinda absorb that into my repertoire of chops, if you will, and I wont use it in the same way, but itll come out some way.
KG: You certainly make it your own. You have a very unique, recognizable way of phrasing.
PR: Well, its like Otis Redding, one of the things I love about him, he sometimes lays behind the beat, sometimes right on the beat, sometimes ahead of the beat, and he can be all three in the same sentence! You can do so much with the shift in the movement for the emotion in the song.
Uh oh I feel another "Almost Famous" moment about to descend upon us
KG: Paul, have you met the guitar player in Billy Squiers band (one of the opening acts on the tour, along with Styx and some young kid guitarist), Steve Conte?
PR: Weve all bumped into each other on the road, yes.
KG: Hell probably kill me for saying this to you, but he is another one of the best singers Ive ever heard, and he sounds so much like you. I dont think its a conscious thing, but more like what you talked about he absorbed all the greats, like you did, and listening to "Anthology" and then listening to Steves bands Crown Jewels CD, its pretty obvious you were certainly one of them! You should ask him for a copy, youll be amazed. Hes got his own style, but I promise youll hear the influence!
PR: Wow, I will! Thats a good name, too.
GM: Better than "Johnny Kidd & The Pirates".
Sadly we are nearing the end of our Rock N Roll Fantasy
KG: So were coming out to see you Sat. evening, and I will be so happy to see the guys with the real deal fronting the band, man! As a listener, as a musician and singer, and as somebody who worked with the band, this will truly be a full-circle treat for me
PR: Jolly good, all right, I appreciate you saying that, its really nice. I think youll enjoy the show because there are so many good bands on!
KG: Its quite a bevy of talent on the same line-up, are you guys having fun?
PR: We absolutely are, the crowds have been great, and its just a really perfect tour. Everyone gets along really well, I love the Styx guys. Weve done a lot of interviews together and they are funny guys and we have a really good time, its a good laugh!
Its a happy little band of musicians, wandering minstrels, doing our thing
KG: Youre so damn happy!! This is not the Paul I expected at all! Whats up with that?? I thought youd be really serious and I better not try to be too funny
PR: Oh, I am serious and focussed. But its just great to be doing something so exciting thats really happening from night to night! Thats the thing!
KG: Thank you so much for hangin with us today and sharing such wonderful stuff!
GM: Thank you, Mr. Rodgers.
PR: My pleasure. Make sure to come say hello on Sat. Bye, heres Cynthia!
Paul puts Cynthia on the phone, the friendly woman who had initially called us after Paul had been located, and who I assumed was his assistant or working for the band on the tour or something, to set us up to go to the show on Sat., when, suddenly I have a brilliant idea or an episode of temporary insanity. You be the judge
KG: Cynthia, is Paul still there, can you please put him back on the phone? Can I ask him one last question?
Cynthia says. "Absolutely!" and our Mister Rodgers diligently returns to me
KG: Thanks for coming back, Paul, I just have a favor to ask of you, a simple request. Today, June 6, is my dear friend Bil (with one "L") Kurzs birthday in Nashville, hes a great singer too and a fan of yours, and a week from today is our illustrious publisher Gene Mahoneys birthday. Would you sing "Happy Birthday" to them?
Gene looks at me in utter horror and frantically makes hand gestures, in vain, to stop the madness...
PR: (chuckling and clearing his throat) Uh, what are their names again?
KG: Bil and Gene. Bils in Nashville, Genes here with us now.
Gene is shaking his head, which is now buried in his hands on the table.
PR: (without a moments hesitation in full "Opera Man" voice:) " Happy Birthday to Yoooo, Happy Birthday to Yoooo "
Paul starts cracking up mid-song we are all laughing now - as he bravely carries on
PR:" Happy Birthday, dear Bil and Geeeeeeeen Happy Birthday to (suddenly he morphs into a crooning Elvis) " yewwwwwww!!!!!!!"
Laughter abounds cost of this moment: priceless!!!
KG: (singing) "And many more."
There arent ANY more like Paul Rodgers or ever will be. It was a beautiful day in my neighborhood when Mister Rodgers stopped by. Jolly good company, that Bad Company guy!!
Dishin With Da Drummer & A Bad (Company) Memory
A short while later, Simon Kirke, Bad Co.s drummer, phoned from the tour bus to have a chat and re-connect with me. Not only had I worked with him when I was working as his publicists assistant at Eastwest Records in NY in 1994, but I got to hang out in a studio in Nashville with the band back in 96 when they were recording with the 2nd of the "imposter singers", Robert Hart, and a producer I knew, Josh Leo. My dealings with Simon were always pleasant, and today he proved to be especially delightful. "Hello darling!!" he exclaimed, as soon as I answered the phone. Talking about his reunion with Paul Rodgers, his reaction was a similar one, "Even though we dont have Mick (Ralphs) and Boz (Burrell) on board (Bad Co.s original guitar and bass player), the spirit of the band now is like when the band first started! Were having fun every night, everyone is smiling, we change things up, and throw in obscure covers, do an acoustic set, I even sing a song!" I told him I had seen him on the Ringo All-Star Tour a year to the day in Nashville last summer and I was so impressed that he carried all the lead vocals for the Bad Co. songs and did a fabulous job. "I never really sang more than background vocals till I started doing the Ringo tour", Simon said, "Ringo was like, (doing an impeccable "Ringo Starr" impression): Listen, if you want to play in my band, youve got to sing some bloody songs! If I can sing, you can bloody sing! That was his criteria! I had to learn vocal exercises, but after a few nights I did quite well!"
When I told him he truly was " a drummers drummer", he replied, "Bless your cotton socks! I just learned from the best, yknow? Like Al Anderson, the guys who played for Otis Redding and James Brown, all the great soul drummers." These Bad Co. guys must have shared a slice of the same humble pie, man!
I reminded Simon about the time he stepped in to do that interview for first "imposter singer", Brian Howe, who pulled a no-show, and how Simon "saved my ass", he said, "Yours was a lovely ass to be saved!" We then laughed about a Bad Co. show I was sent to attend at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island when Brian "Paul Rodgers wanna-be/ego-maniac" Howe was the lead singer. After the show, Brian, who looked like a very large, middle-aged lumberjack with a mean, hangdog face, cornered me backstage and began to berate me for the record labels apparent lack of interest in "his" band. His very pretty, teenage girlfriend stood silently by his side, and the more I tried to politely appease and get away from him (I was a "temp", for gawdsakes and the label really didnt care!), the more belligerent he became. "Im well aware Eastwest isnt doing anything for Bad Company, ", he snarled at me, " and Ill have you know, I, for one, am COVERING MY ASS!!!" By this time, everyone was looking in our direction and waiting to hear my response, like in that E.F. Hutton commercial. I stood there, all 52 of me facing this at least 63 or 4 un-jolly sour green giant, looked him up and down and then dead in the eye and said, " I can see that, Brian. Youve got quite a large ass to cover and that big hole in the middle, as well." Silence. A pin could have dropped. Everybody was holding their breath He glared at me, opened his mouth AND NOTHING CAME OUT!! He just kinda went, "Humphff!!", grabbed his girlfriends arm, and stormed off to the bar. Everyone in the band practically gave me a round of applause and a standing ovation! All the friends and whoever else were back there were cracking up. I ruled!! Brian never bothered me again. And I didnt get fired eventually he did!! And was replaced by Robert Hart, "Imposter # 2" Until the triumphant return of the only REAL lead singer: Paul Rodgers!! And they all lived happily ever after
" Still Workin It"
The "Working" tour w/ Styx and Billy Squier
Live at Chronicle Pavilion, Concord on June 9th
It was all part of a 70s rock n roll reunion fantasy (sans some original members) and a time warp, of sorts - when enthusiastic, mostly thirty & forty -something fans converged to pay tribute to two of the most popular and influential rock bands of the decade. We missed the 1st opening act, a young guitar prodigy named Joe Stark, who Paul Rodgers had told me, during our interview, was excellent. Sorry, Joe. Hey, ya got an endorsement from "The Voice"; youre on yer way, kid! We arrived just in time to see 80s rock hitmaker and powerhouse singer Billy Squier take the stage. In great physical shape, wearing an Italian muscle T-shirt and tight jeans ripped at the knees (totally 80s man!) with a shorn, "Julius Ceasar do" replacing his long, dark, curly locks, (making him appear almost like the ghost of the late Freddy Mercury from Queen in his later days), Billy and his very competent and very loud band kicked some serious rock ass! I forgot how many hits this guy had! Songs like "In The Dark", "The Stroke", "My Kind Of Lover", "Lonely Is The Night", and "Everybody Wants You" still held up after all these years, as have Mr. Squiers formidable vocal chords, which resonated loud and proud. Playing a mean lead guitar and singing some killer b.g. vocals was my talented, long-time pal from NYC, Steve Conte (who has a great band, Crown Jewels), and like good wine and Richard Gere, seems to get better with age. Go, Steve!
After the set, we ventured backstage to say hello and to meet Bad Companys friendly manager Chris Crawford, who turned out to be a dead ringer for a drummer (and an ex of mine) that Steve Conte and I know from NY and Nashville. I also ran into talented hit singer/songwriter Glen Burtnik, (Patty Smythe, Randy Travis) who was the original "Paul" in BEATLEMANIA, another guy I know from NY and Nashville (who claimed to want to write songs with me in both cities and never did) and is now playing bass and singing in Styx!
It was now time to go back out into the house and hear it rocked like I had never witnessed before: by the legendary English supergroup, Bad Company with their original lead singer, the man with the legendary lungs, Paul Rodgers! After the lovely chat wed had with him (and drummer Simon Kirke) a few days before, and after having heard Bad Co. with both of the "replacement singers" over the last few years, this reunion was an event I was looking forward to with great anticipation. Paul & Co. did not disappoint, offering up a hit laden set devoid of any pretentiousness, posturing and flashy staginess, but packed with killer chops, driving rhythms, familiar hooks, an infectious spirit of sheer joy, and oh, those vocals Looking like a fit n trim Italian race car driver - in dark shades, a short jacket over a tight tank top, thick chains around his neck, and shiny, silver leather pants that looked like they had been spray painted on (those were some pants!), Paul Rodgers took the stage like a king reclaiming his proper rock throne. When the band kicked into the 2nd of their many signature hits, "Cant Get Enough Of Your Love", Paul took off his jacket, (revealing more of how his daily exercise regime has paid off), and climbed upon a riser center stage, beaming and swaying to the beat with his arms outstretched, like, "Here I come to save the day!!"
Dave "Bucket" Colwell, on guitar, also wearing some tight, eye-catching snakeskin trousers, played rockin licks and laid into undeniable classic songs like "Feel Like Makin Love", "Shooting Star" and "Rock N Roll Fantasy" while bassist Rick Wills and original drummer since the Free days, the incomparable Simon Kirke, held down the solid-as-a-rock rhythm section and Paul soulfully riffed away, as only he can. And they really did all look so damn happy, like teenagers in their first band, instead of the well-seasoned veterans that they are. (I must admit, however, I did miss the sound of having two great guitar players, like when Mick Ralphs (original Bad Co. guitar player) was still in the band, but Bucket did a fine job on his own.) Throughout the set, the audience became what every band, artist and songwriter hopes to witness in their career: their own personal choir, gleefully singing entire verses and choruses when Paul dropped out and pointed his magic wand, I mean, microphone at them. While I was writing, a guy next to me asked, "Whatever happened to Brian Howe?" Annoyed, I replied, "Who cares??" and he nodded and said, "This band was nothing without Paul Rodgers!" How true! And true to Simons word, they did an enthusiastic cover of The Beatles "And I Feel Fine", and by the time the band hit the opening strains of "All Right Now", the crowd was on their feet going wild. During the first encore, amidst swirls of smoke (the only "stage-ish" element) Paul rose up playing a piano, to sing a chill-inducing version of their truly signature song, "Bad Company". Saving the best for last, Mister Rodgers and his Company B left the neighborhood, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt they are back and absolutely "Ready For Love"
On an anti-climactic and opposite note, the re-formed Styx, (who I admit I was a fan of in my younger years and enjoyed seeing live), with founding members James Young and Tommy Shaw (and sans Dennis DeYoung), delivered a very flashy, overdone, somewhat cheesy show which one Bay Area review described as "the real Spinal Tap". Even though songs like "Fooling Yourself" and "Im Sailing Away" still make me want to sing along, and Tommy Shaw is still a great singer, seeing the new guy who sounds like Dennis De Young but looks like Jon Bon Jovi sing, "Lady" and watching all the guys collect bras and panties that were being thrown onstage and put them on the ends of their instruments what band was I watching?? - Motley Crue??? Aerosmith??? Tom Jones??? and especially after seeing my friend and father of three, Glen Burtnik, go out into the audience with his "bra and panty decorated" bass and get up on a chair and start dirty dancing with a scantily clad female audience member, I just had to get the hell outta there!!
Backstage, I had the opportunity to finally meet "The Voice" and his lovely fiancée "mystery woman", who turned out to be the engaging and sweet Cynthia, the helpful voice on the telephone! (Sorry if I was flirting during the interview, it was just for comic relief!) Paul could not have been more polite and ingratiating, acting so pleased to make my acquaintance, inquiring as to whether or not I enjoyed the show (duh!) and treating me like I was Dave Marsh from Rolling Stone! Hes the coolest. Bucket saw me from across the room and yelled, "Kimberlye!!" and hugged me, even though I had much darker hair (hey, we cant all be natural California girls) the last time he saw me several years ago. What a guy! Bassist Rick and "father of the year" pointed out his son - who is now one of the stage crew and the wonderful Simon invited me to have a chat on the tour bus, where we reminisced about Eastwest records, talked about SF, my dear, departed dad, NY, and then he asked me for a copy of the SF Herald and my CD!! (And on the 4th of July, left me a msg. saying how much he liked my music and that the piece on my father "brought him to tears". Better than fireworks!) Bad Company till the day we die and in the next life - (when I come back as a successful, FAMOUS, rock star!!!!!) Till then .
"It Must Be RICKIE LEE!!!"
Rickie Lee Jones at Bimbos, SF on June 6th
A sold out crowd of mostly 30 & 40-something, somewhat eclectic fans piled into the legendary San Francisco nightclub, BIMBOs (now brought to national weekly attention by The Chris Issak Show on Showtime and that naked mermaid in the basement) to see the visionary pop icon Rickie Lee Jones, most widely remembered for her hit, "Chuck E.s In Love" off her self-titled debut 1979 album. Oft imitated and emulated by the burgeoning crop of female singer/songwriters who appear year after, this fiercely original and immensely talented "fore-sister" proved during her 2-hour set that she is still the reigning queen of Coolsville, after 20 plus years. Seated at the table next to us (in the VIP section, of course) was my old buddy and French hairdresser, Robin Williams (see 1st "Almost Famous" installment in the Feb. issue) and his wife, who were presented with drink tickets by the club owner. (Where were ours? Where was Huey Lewis? Studying for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire"?) Playing over the sound system, pre-show, was some obnoxious rap-metal CD, making it impossible to carry on polite conversation (or annoy Robin Williams), and after awhile, impatient fans began to cheer at the end of each track, hoping to make it stop and hasten their queens arrival. Finally, fashionably late and not-so-fashionably dressed in baggy "housfrau" tan pants and blouse with a bandanna tied around her hair, Ms. Jones took the stage and proceeded to recite, poetry slam style, the caustic lyrics to the rap song by Cypress Hill, " So Ya Wanna Be A Rock Star" (not to be confused with The Byrds "So You Wanna Be A Rock N Roll Star", a song this crowd might have more easily recognized) a tirade against the commercialism of the music industry, and then let her audience know that it was she who had insisted upon subjecting us to their "brilliant music" before the show, like it was a sermon! Okay, Reverend Jones, we got da message!
Backed by an upright bassist and drummer, she played the first half of her set on electric guitar and rocked, showing us who Sheryl Crow undoubtedly listened to in her younger days. After the 2nd song, "Ghost Train", talented and charismatic SF chanteuse and my companion for this event, Jenna Mammina (check out her CDs "Under The Influence" and "Meant To Be" on Mama Grace Records and come to her CD release party at Yoshis Sept. 4), herself a die-hard Rickie Lee Jones fan, turned to me and said, "Shes back!" At first, she seemed tentative and kept turned toward her bass player, but soon she strutted to center stage, like a prisoner whod just been freed and crowned "King Of Bimbos". She played a stirring version of "Last Chance Texaco" off her debut album, and then launched into a cover of David Bowies, "Rebel, Rebel", where she changed the lyric to "You made a mess on her dress", an obvious reference to Monica Lewinsky, and then teasingly scolded the audience for laughing, saying, "you guys are like little kids!" Rickie Lee was having fun! "Ive written a lot of religious songs", she told us. "Houdini, Jesus, and Godzilla are all me." (Uh, what religion is that?)
The band took a break and she delivered a haunting acapella number about a lonely, lost soul reaching out to a stranger in a bar and if a pin dropped, it would have echoed. Embracing the silent reverence she had just created, she moved over to the piano, sat down on her throne and performed heart-stopping renditions of songs off my favorite RLJ album, "Pirates". From "Skeletons", (which had me dabbing my eyes with my cocktail napkin and clutching Jennas hand) straight into "Lucky Guy" and "Pirates", her voice seamlessly blended each color in the crayon box into the next, from a whisper to a full belt and back again. Emotionally, this is the height of what music can and should do. This chick moves me, man! Using her piano bench like a favorite rocking chair, she traveled through "Coolsville" and reminded us that "We Belong Together" - intimately - like she did on her amazing live at the Fillmore album, "Naked Songs". For her encore, she brought out her teenage daughter, Charlotte Rose, to sit on the piano bench and keep her company, while she got back on guitar and played some funky jazz flavored number and "Satellites" off the Walter Becker (Steely Dan) produced "Flying Cowboys" CD. She ended with a beautiful, touching version of her hit, "It Must Be Love", and it was. Or was it? Lest we forget how our evening with the irreverent Ms. Jones began, she took us out, for real, shouting the lyric to "So Ya Wanna Be A Rock Star" at us all over again. Oh well, we love you just the way you are, Rickie Lee "skeletons" n all
After the house lights came up, I went over to a very low-key, bespectacled Robin Williams and introduced myself and told him Id written a piece for the SF Herald about meeting him 20 years ago. He very politely and honestly said, "I dont believe Ive ever heard of the San Francisco Herald." "Dont worry", I replied. "No one else has either. But I think you might find it amusing and worth your while. And we just won Best Neighborhood Newspaper in the SF Weekly!!" I gave him the website address and he thanked me and told me hed be sure to check it out. Im certain he ran straight to his computer the moment he got home. Why, I bet hes probably still chuckling about "our moment" right now
"Shady Lady From The 80s"
BERLIN live at St. James Park, San Jose -- June 28th
Talk about a generation gap! I started the day playing my music, as I do the last Thurs. of every month, for the residents of Pacifica Nursing and Rehab, one of the places my dear, departed Dad spent the last few months of his life. The old folks there still clamor for my tunes and I am happy to oblige. Immediately following my little labor of love, the illustrious publisher of this little newsrag and I headed down to a free concert in St. James Park in San Jose, joining a large crowd of all ages who still clamor for those big hits from the 8os and new wave diva Terri Nunn, lead singer for Berlin. (Hi Gene!) It was a lovely afternoon and people were spread out on the lawn, having picnics as they grooved to the familiar tunes performed by opening 80s cover band, Tainted Love, which brought back memories of my days in LA as the lead singer in cover bands when these retro songs were Top 40 - scary! In need of some sit-down sustenance, we asked a security guard how long until Berlin came on and he assured us we had plenty of time. Over a pleasant dinner, we reminisced about the first night we met: at SLIMs in SF last Dec. 29th, when Berlin played a great show, how fabulous Terri Nunn still looked and sounded, (Gene had interviewed her for a previous issue) and how funny it was that Gene, thinking I resembled her (whatever!) led him to approach me and how that led to my current status as a columnist for the SF Herald and us being here now. Well, lucky for us we saw all of that great show back then, because Berlin was 3/4 through their set by the time we returned! Thanks a lot, Mr. Security Guard! We got there just in time to hear their hit song "Sex", with Terri, very cute, petite, and casually clad in jeans and a little mid-drift top, emphatically informing the audience that not only was she "a slut", but that "were all sluts!" Speak for yourself, Ms. Nunn! (Personally, I like to think of myself as a vamp, a scamp, and a bit of a tramp, thank you!) The rest of the hired guns who now perform spiritedly under the Berlin banner, (including the attractive, talented, and formerly fair-haired background singer, Linda) have all affected this late 80s/early 90s "Gene Loves Terri, I mean, Jezebel" dyed-black-everything Goth look, which strikes me as kind of dated, gimmicky and unnecessary. The old and new songs sound excellent we got to hear a few more a new one, "Drug", and a couple cool covers by Depeche Mode and Marilyn Manson - and the band pulled them off just fine with the charasmatic Ms. Nunn commanding center stage. Take off the Halloween costumes and just play your funky new wave music!
After the show, I waited patiently as Gene tried to reconnect with the band members and of course, favorite diva of his youth Terri Nunn, who he is obsessed with, I mean, interested in offering to put on the cover of the next issue. He was able to relay this to a couple of the band members and gave Linda a stack of papers and I watched in amusement as they skimmed through the latest issue backstage. Terri, meanwhile, was ensconced in autograph signing (one total weirdo tried to get her to sign his live rabbit) and alas, Gene was not able to get to her in time. We were chatting with one of the musicians right before he got in the limo, when this young kid came up to us and asked me, "Arent you the lead singer?" When I laughingly told him no, he ignored me and told us his name was Steven, gave us all a flyer from the Calvary Oasis Church across the street, asked us what "the message" of the music was, and proceeded to go into this whole spiel about how upset he was by what he heard and that we all needed to be saved. He was so earnest and sincere and it was so hard not to laugh. We said good-bye to Mitch, the keyboard player (who couldnt wait to get the hell out of there) and this kid followed us for blocks trying to save us. Gene benevolently engaged him in conversation and he proceeded to tell us about how he had once tried to get into a hotel bar to save Keith Richards, but "this big guy like you in a leather jacket pushed me out the door and told me to stay away from him." Poor Steven, he was such a lost, little lamb and Gene pitied him so much he practically took him home with us! Right before we made it, un-saved, to the car an attractive group of multi-ethnic 20-somethings walked by us, and suddenly a couple of them turned around and exclaimed, "Look, its Terri Nunn from Berlin! Hey Terri!!" This was so ridiculous, I do not look like Terri Nunn, what, all petite (I wish I was that tiny!) blondes under 54 look like Terri Nunn??? You would have thought Gene had just been mistakenly sighted with Madonna and he was so excited and he just had to talk to these people forever and it was like, after midnight by the time we got home. I have "no more words"
"What how when where (why who) its still Greek to me"
ani di Franco live at the Greek Theater, Berkeley on July 6th
I am one of those people (like Kathy Valentine from The Go-Gos, who I had the pleasure of interviewing in the last issue) who champions what ani di franco does as an artist, particularly what she has been able to achieve - completely on her own terms - without any assistance from a major record label, ya gotta love that. And ya gotta love the fact that she just doesnt give a rats ass what anybody thinks or pleasing anybody but herself and her fans, of which there are many. She doesnt have to. She just cancelled an appearance on Letterman last week one that would have given her major national exposure because they wouldnt let her perform the song "subdivision" off her new CD "revelling reckoning" because the opening lyric is: "white people are so scared of black people/they bulldoze out to the country" (Oh, please! I reckon Dave & Co. can kiss her ass too ) And I think her "any and everything goes" vibe is cool, too, I mean, I just like guys, but more power to her "its all good" preference mentality so when I finally sat down and listened to one of her CDs, "Up, Up, Up", I wanted to just dig the shit out of it. No doubt, the chick is talented as hell.
But, I dunno, it just struck me as; well, kinda pretentious and affected. There was some great stuff on it, good lines, interesting hooks - but I didnt care for all the weird stuff she kept doing with her voice, after awhile, it sounded like she was hiccuping in tune, and all those words when half as many would get the point across. Who has that much to say, every few months? It made me tune out. But the illustrious publisher of this little newsrag, Gene Mahoney, is a fan (even though he told me he once took a girl hed just started dating to an ani di franco "girl-fest" concert and this chick never returned his calls again. Maybe she discovered she liked girls better, boss?) and suggested I re-open my mind and ears and so I have, beginning with listening to "buildings and bridges" on his shitty car stereo: one nice ballad near the end, same reaction to the rest. Her latest offering: the double CD, "revelling reckoning" (ani never capitalizes anything) does contain some really great stuff, but again, its a lot to digest, and you gotta really tune in and pay attention if you wanna catch the gems: the killer lyric lines, like "Im a good kisser and youre a fast learner/and that kinda thing could float us for a pretty long time" from "marrow" and some really wonderful, truly funkified, jazz inspired music, like "aint that the way". And some of the lower key stuff is very melodic, haunting and poignant, such as the socially conscious "your next bold move" when she isnt doing that "bleating lamb" thing with her voice (which I heard a little less of, thank God) and not spewing out 9000 words and 250 images in every lyric line (hit n miss on that tip).
It was an absolutely perfect night when we went to see ani di franco at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. Even if you werent all that crazy about the music, it would have been hard not to have had an enjoyable evening under the stars, particularly if you had a member of the sexual preference of your choice to share them with. I am pleased to report, however, that in the well- mixed context of her absolutely ssssmokin jazzy/funky band,
ani d transcended all the afore-mentioned quirks that I had previously found so distracting and I was able to settle down on my concrete slab for a very entertaining blend of funk, jazz, acoustic guitar, and deep thoughts. The place was packed with multi-ehtnic, mixed preference (leaning more toward, but not exclusively, the female/female combo) mostly college-aged (this was right off the UC Berkeley campus) die-hard ani di franco fans, who screamed adoringly after every word she uttered (which could have been reading the phone book, for all they cared) and with each even slightly suggestive move she made behind that ever-present acoustic guitar. Her most striking fashion statement that night was this "wild, 9000 braids-piled-on-top-of-her-head-sticking-straight-up" hair-do. We arrived right as she dug into the first song, a tasty version of the opening song, "aint that the way" on the "revelling" part of her new double CD, "revelling reckoning", which comprised the bulk of the show. The band, with ani firmly in command, cooked up spicy versions of the funky stuff, bringing out some even funkier guest players on a couple numbers, while she delivered the stripped down, solo acoustic singer/songwriter tunes just as effectively. I can now officially count myself among the converts who "revel and reckon" anis pretty damn cool, man
"Her Love Is King"
SADE - Live at Shoreline Amphitheater, Mt.View -- July 18th
Some performers can have nice songs, a good or even great voice, a proficient band backing them up, flashy staging, dancers, the works but lack that certain " un je ne sais quoi" that truly makes them a star. Perhaps theyll develop it in time, perhaps not. Then there are those chosen few that possess that intangible magic, that ability to claim ownership of an audience from the first moment the two lay eyes upon each other. For the uninitiated, of which I formerly was until this night, Sade undeniably falls into the latter category. I had to learn a few of her hits to sing in wedding and Top 40 bands and I always enjoyed her music but more for background for candlelight dinners than the actual content. This was about to change The anticipation was only heightened by the long break between the star and opening act India. Arie (who, unfortunately, many of us missed, due to terrible traffic). The capacity crowd was a pleasant melting pot of multi-ethnic 30/40/50-somethings, mostly couples and many of whom were of mixed race. Most interesting was a handsome "James Earl Jones" looking gentlemen caressing the back of a woman who decidedly resembled a large-haired Barbara Bush. "Hey, maybe theyre really in love", remarked my illustrious and uncharacteristically sensitive publisher.
But it would be difficult for the most hard-boiled cynic not to succumb to the aphrodisiac effect of romantic love that is the essence of Sade. Finally, the band began to play an extended intro behind the backlit curtain, as Sade appeared behind it and struck a pose, her silhouette like an ethereal statue. As the curtain rose and she was revealed, her curvy, womanly body wrapped in a tight, canary yellow, long, silk Asian dress and her jet black hair slicked back in her trademark ponytail, the crowd immediately leapt to their feet in genuine excitement. As she began the opening strains of "Cherish the Day", it was crystal clear she had every soul in that amphitheater in the palm of her hand she knew it, we knew it, and the love affair between the star and her audience was sealed. All we could do was sit back, relax, and be completely swept away. Except on the up-tempo numbers, when several partyin people just had to "git on up n git down," despite pleas to the contrary by some of the more sedentary folks. Her band was a mixed-to-sheer-perfection concoction of just the right amount of soul/jazz/funk to keep steering Sades love boat through smooth sailing, tranquil waters. Particularly delightful, were the two male background singers, one of whom doubled on flute and acoustic guitar, and both of whom sang like birds, and came off their stage perch upon occasion to join Sade on stage for some playful dance steps.
Sade sang effortlessly, and her voice showed more range and depth than I had anticipated. Shes not a singer who needs to "show-boat" she knows what works and does it to perfection. With every tasteful shake of her hips, the crowd went wild with bonafide adoration. Songs like "Your Love is King" and "The Sweetest Taboo" still reigned supreme, interspersed with many selections off her wonderful new CD "Lovers Rock", and an extended instrumental break during her classic "Smooth Operator", conjured up Santana-esque moments. And as moments go, there were many standout ones. The lighting and backdrops of thunderstorms and oceans proved especially effective, as did an accompanying video of a struggling single mother trying to balance a career as a nightclub singer during the new song, "King Of Sorrow", in which she literally lets her hair down and looks more stunning than ever. Before she began "Jezebel" off her 2nd mid-80s album, "Promise", she took off her shoes and sang the entire song sitting on the edge of the stage, bringing back the ghost of Judy Garland, but re-claiming the gesture as her own. No one seemed to be immune to the intoxicating mood Sade had created and had us all basking in, and, looking around, one couldnt help but notice the passionate "Kisses Of Life" that were being stolen and exchanged, like it was the first time for all of us. In other words, it was killer "make-out music", man! A woman of few spoken words herself, the ones Sade chose were genuine and heartfelt as she dedicated her new song "Immigrant" to her father, the afore-mentioned "Kiss Of Life" to her mother, and "The Sweetest Gift" "to children everywhere." This was a night that, with extraordinary class and grace, Sade filled us with promise: that broken hearts can heal, lonely hearts can find each other and together create a love that is anything but ordinary...
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