So I'm driving back from my San Jose retirement home music gig on Friday afternoon after we rocked some Old Blue Eyes' "My Way", his daughter Nancy's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin", and a bunch of other fun schtuff... heading up 280 with KFOG blasting on the radio - and who should be their Play Station live guest but one of my faves from the last decade: Dido! Hadn't heard her name in quite a stretch, so I was excited to hear what was new on her horizon. Dido has a new album out in March called Girl Who Got Away - YAY! She played two songs live in the studio, her last hit "White Flag" and the new single "No Freedom" off her forthcoming CD, which contained the cool hook, "There's no love without freedom/no freedom without love". I'm not sure I necessarily agree with that philosophy, but damn, she made it all sound GREAT. Better than ever!
The two KFOG DJs were apparently even more excited than I was, falling all over themselves gushing about how much they love her and one spouting the info he carefully researched:"One in every ten households in England owns a Dido CD". They also discussed the upcoming Oscars this Sunday, February 24, bringing up the fact that Dido had a song nominated for Best Song at the 2011 Academy Awards, "If I Rise" from the film 127 Hours and asked why she didn't perform it at the show. She explained that she was pregnant and couldn't travel, much to both her delight and dismay. "I've never worn a long dress in my life. I was quite looking forward to that", she sighed. So who took Mama-To-Be Dido's place at the Oscars? Florence, from Florence and The Machine! "Not a bad stand-in to have, if you must have a stand-in", Dido quipped in her sweet and polite English lilt.
It all reminded me of an event from years gone by that we covered for the San Francisco Herald... so without further ado, I bid all you adieu as we time-travel back to July 2001...
Herald Flashback 2001
By Kimberlye Gold
"I Want To Thank You" —
For Giving Me Pleasant Music (on a day that really sucked!!!)
Dido/Travis - Live at Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View on June 13 - (Gene Mahoney’s Birthday!)
You know how "Dateline NBC" always seems to begin: ‘"It was supposed to be a perfect (fill in the blank)… — but then it became: ‘The Thing That Went Horribly Wrong’ — I’m Stone Phillips."
Well, that would aptly describe my latest adventure in "concert review world for the SF Herald." Hi, I’m Kimberlye Gold, and I don’t just report the news, I report how much it sometimes sucks to report the news! All the juicy "behind the scenes" details that you won’t get in the SF Weekly or Rolling Stone! Why? Because I can!
Wednesday, June 13th was supposed to have been a lovely way to kill two birds with one stone: review the Dido/Travis show at Shoreline Amphitheater and celebrate my illustrious publisher of this award winning little newsrag’s birthday, who happens to be a Dido fan.
Between several e-mails to and from the media relations director at Shoreline, and many e-mails and phone conversations with Dido’s publicist at Arista Records in New York over a period of weeks, I couldn’t have gone to more lengths to make sure this went off without a hitch. Shoreline was supposed to have our tickets for us, and the charming publicist at Arista (who tried, in vain, to get us an interview, bless her heart) e-mailed and called me twice to confirm that she was supplying us with "Meet and Greet" passes and a photo pass that would occur at 4:30 pm before the 8:00 pm show time, and gave me a contact number for the tour manager, should we encounter any problems. She told me because Gene was such a fan and it was his birthday, she wanted to make sure he got a chance to meet Dido. What a gal! (Plus, she knew I wanted to say hi to Dido’s bass player, Keith Golden, who has sublet my New York apartment for years.) So Gene dashed across town to borrow our web designer, James Dylan’s $600 digital camera and took him out for a quick lunch, where he accidentally ingested a burrito with meat in it, got a $25 parking ticket, and ran a red light in his haste to pick me up. Certain he now had Mad Cow Disease and a $300 moving violation on the way as well. Poor baby!
But we left in plenty of time and traffic was light, so the journey with my paranoid birthday boy publisher began deceptively well. We arrived around 3:45 pm. and when we tried to park, the BGP (Bill Graham Presents) parking people told us they knew nothing about a 4:30pm "Meet and Greet" and I immediately called the tour manager, who said this local Arista rep would meet us at will-call to take us to the "Meet and Greet", as soon as we picked up our passes. When we got to will-call, nobody behind any of the glass windows knew anything about a "Meet and Greet" for the press, or had passes or tickets for us, and the media relations director had not yet arrived. They told us to try the "Blue Door" (the business office) and they told us to go to "Gate 5". What was this, Alice In Wonderland? Lost In Space? The BGP girl at Gate 5 called the Dido production office and no one seemed to know what the hell was going on! And I couldn’t reach the tour manager or my friend Keith on their cell phones. Meanwhile, we could hear Dido sound-checking. Finally, a new BGP guy called down there and said, "They said the "Meet and Greet" has been changed to "After Show" and you have to go back to will-call and get the guy’s number to help you."
So we walked back down to will-call and they gave us this Arista rep’s cell number and I called it and got a voicemail, of course, leaving him a polite (but distraught) message, because we still had no tickets or passes waiting for us! They told us the show started at 7:45 pm. By this time, it was after 5 pm. and poor birthday boy Gene, having lost a whole deadline day in order to do this, and crazy from the heat and the "no meet ‘n greet", said, "Let’s get the hell outta here!"
So I took him out for sushi in downtown Mountain View to lift his spirits and while we were there, the local Arista rep called me on my cell phone and casually told me that he was sorry for the confusion, sort of blamed everyone else involved, and said he would make sure our after-show passes and photo pass would be left with our tickets.
Before we went back to Shoreline, we parked in a business complex and drank a little red wine in plastic, jelly cups and listened to some of the new Go-Go’s CD to cheer ourselves up. God Bless the Go-Go’s!! Renewed, we walked back into the venue at 7:30 pm. and went straight back to the "Blue Door" and were told we’d still have to wait for the media relations director, who was on "an important call". Another woman came out a few minutes later and said she was the MRD’s assistant and she would be with us shortly. Were we waiting for a meeting with President Bush? Queen Elizabeth? After another 10 or 15 minutes, while we were treated to some amplified karaoke (??) the head lady came out and gave us our tickets and told us no one had left our passes, seemed so annoyed with everyone else, and she was going to go and get them herself and bring them to us in our seats. She was supposed to have held our camera till after the show, because we only had clearance to shoot the after- show and they have a very strict policy (being the White House and all) but I think she felt so bad about all we had been through, (and Gene looked like he was going to cry — or gun down the amphitheater) she let us keep the camera in my purse after I took an oath and signed in blood that I wouldn’t shoot (pictures) during the show. Kidding. Sort of.
So we set off to find our seats (and chase down our passes, literally) and got to hear the last two songs of the 1st opening act, Emiliana Torrini, a waify young singer who immediately reminded me of Bjork - on lithium. A mellow Bjork. Turns out she’s from Iceland, too. (Do I have ears or what?) Which is doubtful the several very-young children in the row in front of us will have if their late 20/early 30-something parents keep bringing them to very loud concerts without earplugs!!!! What’s wrong with people?? Call social services!!! Especially when the next band is the very entertaining, musically stimulating - and extremely LOUD — Travis — the young Scottish lads who have made such a splash in the UK and are finally getting some well deserved recognition here in the U S of A. Sounding like a cross between the Beatles and U2, wonderful lead singer and dynamic front boy Fran Healy (sporting a kind of rooster/mohawk hairdo) and his clan of merry men took the stage and delivered a high energy, dynamic, and very pleasing set of selections off their #1 UK 2nd album, The Man Who and their latest new effort, The Invisible Band. Before the song, "Pipe Dreams", off their new CD, Fran delivered an intro so earnest and sincere about how we should be thankful for our blessings, I was ready to propose marriage on the Scot, I mean, spot! But he could read the phone book with that adorable brogue and I’d probably have the same reaction. (But Fran, sweetie, we’ll need to do something about that hairstyle, luv!) To our right, was our friend from Don Henley’s last concert, Oakland Tribune music critic Jim Harrington, looking quite suave, fabulous and buff with his newly shaved head. Go Jim!
Back to Travis: The lovely "As You Are", off The Man Who, sounded very Crowded House, which is music to these ears. One thing I must point out immediately about Travis is that it’s hard to believe they are the same ethereal, easy listening, jingly-jangly pop band on their CD’s; because live, these lads are LOUD, and even though they do have a very nice dynamic range, when they come up, they ROCK! Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think their style calls for that much volume. Sound guy or band — hard to tell. But Fran Healy really is a joy to watch and hear, with a pure, plaintive pop tenor and an utterly sincere delivery. I believe this kid! And so did the crowd of mostly young, mostly white fans. When the band got to their # 1 UK hit, "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" (our theme song for the day, apparently), it was obvious why these lads belong in a class above so much of the drek on alternative radio these days. With songs like the amazing, "Turn" (my personal favorite), the fact that they actually use a banjo on some parts (which is just too cool) and the standing ovation the audience gave them, I’m looking forward to seeing how high Travis can climb.
Next up was our girl of the night, the 29 year old English songstress, Dido. After wandering around in near obscurity after her debut album, No Angel was released back in ‘99, she has broken out into giant superstardom over the last year, due to the wildly successful white rap star Eminem, who sampled her song, "Thank You" (arguably the best song on the record) on his #1 song "Stan", having her join him on some high profile live TV appearances, like Saturday Night Live, and enabling her song to become a smash hit (and TV commercial) as well. The TV show Roswell also used her "Here With Me" as the theme song — very advantageous breaks for a fledgling new kid on the block. And Dido seems to be wisely capitalizing on the obvious strengths and unbelievable success of her internationally #1 CD by delivering a live show that basically duplicates it. Unlike Travis, who, sound so different live, she and her band of very talented players, (including my buddy Keith "Bunny" Golden on bass, and my former upstairs neighbor who lived in the apartment I used to sublet in the same building as Keith in New York, drummer Alex Alexander) played every song of the set, competently and tastefully, note for note like the CD.
The stage was set for an exciting and electrifying performance, with the tight band playing an extended intro amidst smoke and lights — but that wasn’t quite the effect when Dido emerged from the shadows and took center stage. Dido has a very pleasant, ethereal, if somewhat derivative voice, reminiscent of Sarah MacLachlan and Delores O’Riordan from The Cranberries (without her annoying affectations and bad pitch) - in fact, playing it safe within the lines, Dido did not miss a note and her voice was strong and present. What was lacking, however, was any real star power stage presence. Dressed in a tight, shiny, powder-blue T-shirt that said "San Francisco", low-slung black slacks and black tennis shoes, Dido appeared less diminutive than in her album photos, looking more like a reasonably attractive Jewel, without her guitar. And without an instrument to hide behind, it’s up to a star to command that stage.
While Dido sang very well, and moved from one side of the stage to the other, there just wasn’t anything outstanding or truly memorable about her performance. Perhaps, in time, she will develop that star quality and confidence with a few more wildly successful albums under her low-slung belt. Also missing, to my dismay, were any background vocals, which were stacked so liberally and pleasingly on her CD. Since there was so much sequencing used in the instrumentation, and they had so many affects on her voice, why couldn’t they have used vocal tracks, if they couldn’t afford or didn’t want to deal with live singers? Why didn’t they call me?? Hey, just a thought… But the audience adored their new pop princess, giving her a standing ovation when she walked onstage! In addition to the seamless blend of all the songs off No Angel, Dido offered up two new songs during her encores, one of which she played solo, accompanying herself on piano. I would have preferred her to have taken us out with the pulsing "Take My Hand" and saved the best, "Thank You" for last…
After the show (and over eight hours since we had arrived at Shoreline), we headed toward the VIP lounge with our "Meet ‘n Greet" passes stuck on our left legs and Gene with his photo pass stuck on his right to say hello to my pals from Dido’s band and to meet the lady herself. We had clearance to have that photo taken with her, as planned, which was now all Gene really cared about. I handed Gene the borrowed $600 digital camera that had rested in my bag and when he took the cap off and tried to adjust the settings… THE CAMERA DID NOT WORK!!!!! Oh my God — how in the HELL could it NOT WORK????? It worked earlier, before the show! It was the last straw for this birthday boy! I had never seen my illustrious publisher so upset — or so angry. "Give me your cell phone!" he snarled and called our web designer to try and figure it out, to no avail. "This is the worst birthday I’ve ever had in my whole life! I wish I was dead!" he growled to poor James on my cell, obviously working on his best "Robert DeNiro/Al Pacino/every over-the-top-Academy Award nominated actor" moment. Thanks, boss.
Meanwhile, my buddy Keith, Dido’s bass player, my NYC subletee’, and a big teddy bear, came out, saw me and gave me a giant bear hug. He had read all my articles off our www.sfherald.com website and had seen pictures of us, and he now exclaimed, "I wanna meet the dude from the picture!"
Uh oh — happy "Bunny" Golden wants to meet Mean Gene On The Scene. When he went to shake Gene’s hand, I guess he had just sneezed or wiped his nose, or something, and Gene wouldn’t shake his hand!! And he had this "If you come any closer, why, I’m gonna…." look on his face.
Oh my God, I thought I was gonna die. I had told Keith the Readers Digest version of what had happened to us and the camera not working and all, and all of a sudden Keith became "Deepak Chopra Spiritual Love Clown Man" and would not leave Gene alone until he snapped him out of it and won him over. "C’mon, man, I wiped my hand, shake my hand, man! Hey, let me give you a hug, show me some love! It’s all good!" Gene was starting to look like Travis — "Travis Bickle" from Taxi Driver. At the end of the movie. This was not good at all.
Undaunted, Keith rounded up some of the other band members, including my drummer pal, formerly long-haired and brunette Alex, who now has bleached blond hair — and more fun, like me — (except at this god-awful moment) and said, "C’mon, man, we gotta cheer this dude UP! We gotta give him a GROUP HUG!!" Then Keith went and got Dido’s tour manager, Dan Garnett (my cell phone buddy), and told him our tragic tale of woe. Our man, Dan, apologized for all that had happened earlier and took us back to meet Dido immediately. He even offered to track down a photographer, which he didn’t do and we didn’t pursue. It was too stupid at this point. But Dido was very cordial to us and we had a nice little chat, where we told her how much we enjoyed the show, and she complimented the audience on being "Lovely - responsive and quiet in all the right places!" Gene showed her his vast knowledge of London by asking her which stops she lived near on the Tube line (the English subway) and naming several of them. She asked him if he had studied a Tube map. I praised her on how well she handled Aidin Vazirri during her San Francisco Chronicle interview, and told her he must have really been sweet on her, because he was nice. "I hope I wasn’t too mean — was I alright?"
We assured her she was perfect and bid our girl goodnight. Somewhat appeased, Gene followed me back out to hang with my boys and sat while we caught up on old New York times. We noticed one table with around 9,000 empty beer bottles on it, and Alex said, "That’s all from Travis." Those randy Scottish lads know how to party! Love Guru Keith actually brought a girl over to us who was also celebrating her birthday on June 13th! It was all good! On the way out to the parking lot, Gene whined, "We met Dido. We talked to the most successful pop singer in the world! And we didn’t get a picture to put in the paper. It’s like seeing Bigfoot! No one will believe me!"
So if you see Gene, please tell him you believe him. Thank you.###