Tonight marked the third time in as many decades that I’ve seen RUSH. First time was in Chapel Hill, NC on the Counterparts Tour. My main takeaway from that show was that RUSH was having an off night. They didn’t sound tight and I can remember seeing Peart dropping a stick a few times. Not helping was that Candlebox opened. I also caught the R30 Tour in Virginia Beach, VA. The main thing I remember from that show is how utterly bored I was overall. It was cool that they played By-Tor and the Snow Dog and some other classics, but I just couldn’t get into it. I was supposed to catch them on The Power Windows Tour but my grades were bad and I had to sell my ticket. Bummer.
I hadn’t planned on seeing tonight’s show but after a decent poker game last night, the show ended up being free. I scored a ticket mid-day and rode with some friends to the show. I had spied the current setlists before buying my ticket and the selection looked pretty good.
They opened the show with 3 songs from Clockwork Angels, all of which I was not familiar. They then went into Far Cry, which I like, and The Main Monkey Business from Snakes and Arrows, another that I wasn’t familiar with. They continued with one each from Vapor Trails, Counterparts and the title track from Roll the Bones. As a new song from each album was played, the “crew” from Moving Pictures would change stage props matching what the stage looked like on each respective tour. The setlists from the last 4 shows showed them playing either Distant Early Warning or Between the Wheels from Grace Under Pressure. Sadly for me, we got Between the Wheels. That was pretty much the only letdown for me. They finished their first set with Subdivisions and that finally got the crowd going.
The second started with Tom Sawyer and then into The Camera Eye. Some stops on the tour were getting Red Barchetta. I was a-ok without it as The Camera Eye is probably my favorite song from Moving Pictures. This set was great containing Jacob’s Ladder, Cygnus X-1, much of 2112, Spirit of Radio, Closer to the Heart and Xanadu.
The encore was really good and consisted of Lakeside Park from my favorite RUSH album, Caress of Steel. They then went into Anthem and 2 from the debut to close the show, What You’re Doing and Working Man.
It was an enjoyable show and easily the best of the 3 times I had seen them. Geddy’s playing was superb. He also botched a few lyrics here and there and it was good to see him be a human even though he had a teleprompter on his keyboard. His voice sounded pretty good and he didn’t reach too hard to hit notes he knew he couldn’t hit. Peart was on his game as was Lifeson. It was noticeable, however, that many of the songs were played slower than their original album speed. That was no surprise as those guys aren’t getting any younger.
My brother, Robert (RIP), had one favorite band and that was The Who. While he was the one who got me in to KISS, Alice Cooper, RUSH etc in the 70s, The Who was always top of his list. Through the constant record spinning in the 70s and 80s, I became and remained a fan. Anytime I hear one of their songs, it just punches me in the gut with his memory more so than any of the other bands that he influenced me with. He absolutely loved them and I am pretty sure he never got to see them. I had never seen them before last night either.
Typically when a ticketed show comes to town, I’ll buy 2 as seeing a show with a friend is typically a fun thing to do, but for this show, I wanted to see it alone.
In 10th grade we had to do a book report, written and oral presentation, and I had chosen Full Moon: The Amazing Rock and Roll Life of Keith Moon as a I was a big fan of his frenetic drumming. During the oral presentation, I hung my brother’s Live at Leeds poster behind me and had the tape of that show playing in the background. At the end of the report I quoted one of the last lines in the book which said (paraphrased), “To sum up Keith’s life, he basically upped and fucking died.” Take into consideration that this was a Catholic high school. Ms. Collins, who only lasted on year there, was pretty mousey and was appalled that I had “used such language” and sent me to the principal’s office. I didn’t go. I went to the library and listened to a cassette until the bell rang. The next day I ran into the principal, Sister Ethelreda, in the hall and she immediately had me follow her to her office. I took a pretty good tongue lashing from her about foul language in the classroom etc. I didn’t care. I hated that place and Ms. Collins, who pretty much only spoke to me when she had to for the rest of that year. haha. I ran into her at a mall a few years after high school and spoke to her for a few minutes. I think she was terrified of me.
I’m a pretty big Who fan and prefer their 70s and 80s material more than the 60s stuff. Face Dances, Who’s Next, By Numbers and It’s Hard are my faves.
So here we are at show day. After work I get a ride downtown, grab a happy hour beer then make my way to the venue. I had a pretty decent seat with a side view of the stage, which was perfect as I really wanted to watch their drummer, Zak Starkey. Zak is the son of Ringo Starr, but I couldn’t care less about that and I’m not a Beatles fan at all. BUT…Zak played drums on ASAP’s Silver and Gold album. ASAP stands for Adrian Smith and Project. Yes, THAT Adrian Smith. This is the album he released after leaving Iron Maiden and I think it’s an amazing record from front to back. Great rock album with Adrian on vocals and Zak’s incredible drum work. I highly recommend it.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts were the openers and while I’m not much of a fan, she put on a really good show and opened with my favorite song of hers, Bad Reputation. She pretty much played everything you’d expect to hear plus a couple of new songs. Her voice sounded great and her band was solid. And before last night, I never noticed how gorgeous her eyes are. Looking at the closeups on the big screen monitors just had me captivated for a bit.
After about a 40 minute set change, The Who come on stage and open with I Can’t Explain and The Seeker. Either before or after the next song, Who Are You, they have to change out one of Pete’s amps. While they’re doing that, he mentions that Jeff Beck was in attendance. He quipped that there was at least one guitar player at the show better than him. It was pretty funny and his delivery was right on. They carried on with their playing through mostly familiar hits sprinkling in a few deeper ones like I’m One, Amazing Journey and Sparks. Eminence Front is one of my fave songs by them and they played it. It was great.
The whole show was great in general. Roger’s and Pete’s voices are still very clear and full of range and I was pleasantly surprised by that. They rolled through 22 songs in about 2 hours and no encore. Impressive for a band of their age. Pino Palladino was on bass. He’s a monster player overall but didn’t do all of The Ox’s runs which I thought was odd. Zak’s drumming was solid. Beastly even. He did a lot of cool stuff but I was surprised and maybe a little let down that he didn’t really do any of Moon’s signature licks. It was most noticeable to me in My Generation. Moon plays a mean shuffle on the ride cymbal in that song but it was nowhere to be found last night. But just getting to finally watch him play was a treat. He did do a few buzz rolls reminiscent of that ASAP album that were awesome.
I’ll admit to getting emotional a few times during the set thinking about my brother. I probably missed him more last night than I have since he died.
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My first recollection of hearing Krokus was from buying a tape in the early 80s of their 1978 album, Pay It In Metal. I’m pretty sure that hearing Screaming In The Night and Bedside Radio on the radio in those years prompted me to buy that tape. Plus it was only $1. That album is quite different than their 80s stuff and doesn’t include Storace. I bought The Blitz when it came out in ’84 and loved it. People slag Midnight Maniac but I think it’s a killer tune. I pretty love all of their 80s stuff but never got to see them back then. I remember in the late 90s or early 2000s that they were scheduled to play Jaxx in Springfield, VA (RIP) but something happened and they never made it over to the USA.
When I saw they were going to do to a small US tour, I knew I had to go. They scheduled dates in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas and I promptly bought tix for Houston and SA.
I got to Houston early in the day to beat the rush hour traffic, checked into my hotel and went to the venue to see if any of the guys were hanging out and to try and get The Book signed. Score. I got to meet Mandy Meier and Chris Von Rohr (only original and founding member) after their sound check. Chris was pretty funny. As he’s signing the book, he just looks up at me and says, “Can you find me a toothpick, please?” He handed the book back to me and I said I would. There were some folks there with stacks of vinyl and CDs and I could see in his face that he was getting punished by a few of those guys, especially this one dude that I have seen at a few Houston shows. The guy just wouldn’t move on after getting his stuff signed. Von Rohr just stopped paying attention to this dude’s inane ramblings. I came back a few minutes later with some toothpicks and handed them to Chris who stood up as the punisher was mid-sentence and said, “THANK YOU! You’re now my new tour manager.” I think it gave him a reason to just get up and diss that dude.
I ran into some friends right before the first band went on and hung with them most of the night. The opening band is touring with Krokus (same US mgmt). They were called The Chimpz and it was some sort of hip hop metal thing. I stayed outside. Horrible. Puerto Rico’s Red Tiger came up next and they were decent. The drummer and one of the guitarists both handled lead vocal duties and I preferred the drummer’s vocals. They’re pretty young and their sound is all over the hard rock/metal map, but I think they can likely dial it in. Love and War was up next and they’ve got a good Houston following. They’re super solid hard rock and the singer has a great vocal range. This was my second or third time seeing them.
Finally around 1130, it was time for Krokus. The show looked about 3/4 full. I was down in front on the rail for most of the set and it was hot down there. They come out and open with Long Stick Goes Boom and go right into their cover of American Woman. Blech. Never liked the original and never got into Krokus’ version. But the band was tight and Marc’s vocals sounded great. They mixed the short set up with some newer and older stuff, completely avoiding The Blitz album. There were a few older gems in there like Winning Man and Easy rocker but I’m still a bit surprised that in your first US show in 25 years, you don’t play Bedside Radio, Our Love, Fire, Midnight Maniac or even some of their other famous covers of Stayed Awake all Night, School’s Out and Ballroom Blitz. Don’t get me wrong, I say avoid covers when you have such a huge back catalog but oh well. They’ve been pretty good about putting albums out every 5 years or so. Lots of lineup changes.
Right after Screaming In The Night, I got out of the pit and listened to the rest of the show on the patio. They had the doors open and I could see and hear everything perfectly. It was hot inside and I needed some air and a cold beverage.
After the show, they did do a quick meet and greet and I got Marc to sign the book. There were a lot of people in line to meet them and I just shook hands, said thanks and moved on.
The show was great. I went to San Antonio to catch them on the second night, but because of their Fiesta traffic, I never made it in.
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To be honest, I was a latecomer to the works of Schenker and even the Uli era of the Scorpions. I never got exposed to it. It wasn’t until the mid-90s when a friend gave me his record collection that was filled with pristine copies of UFO, Scorpions and MSG that I was floored by the greatness of these bands. I had seen Schenker and Roth together in 2004 and was simply blown away. I do prefer the MSG stuff a little more than UFO just for its heaviness, but hearing someone play like that in the 70s was pretty groundbreaking.
The current lineup features Francis Buchholz and Herman Rarebell from the Scorpions along with Doogie White (Yngwie, Rainbow) and Wayne Findlay.
I opted for the pre-show meet and greet because I am a huge fan of Francis and Herman. What a solid rhythm section. The 7 of us got to sit in on soundcheck. Before getting the PA and everything in order, Schenker was just in front of his amp shredding at a low volume for about 45 minutes straight until the whole band was ready to check. Half of that time he was just doing hammer on/pull offs with no picking in between whatsoever. It was pretty impressive. He’s 60. Also a lot thinner than he was in 2004. It was interesting watching Michael, Wayne and Francis fixing a “mistake” that they were doing live. Michael asks Francis what note he’s playing in a certain part, Wayne disagrees, Michael agrees, they play it between themselves a few times and fix it. After the 4 song soundcheck, we got to hang out with the band, nerd out, get our stuff signed etc. There was a young couple who had just gotten married earlier in the day then came to the meet and greet. Pretty cool seeing such young fans of quality music. I was really mostly excited to meet Francis. When I picked up the bass in 2000, the Scorpions were one of the bands that helped me learn how to play. I had a great conversation about his red Fender bass and if he brings it on tour still. “It’s better left back home these days. It’s a ’66,” he said. He went on to tell me about his current Warwick endorsement and how they custom built 2 for him. He’s such a big guy that the Warwick looked tiny strapped to him. Herman was a pleasure to talk to as well. Before soundcheck, Doogie came over to where I was sitting and just started chatting. He must have been pretty bored. haha. I asked him about his first band, La Paz, and gave me a cool quick history. Unfortunately they weren’t listed in the book. I did have Francis and Herman sign on their photo.
Y&T were playing in the club next door and went on before Schenker, but I didn’t get back to the club in time to catch them. We purposely missed the openers but I caught a glimpse of the band that was on right before and saw the bassist all over the stage with crazy antics and thought that he looked like the former Schenker bassist, Rev Jones (Fort’e). It was him. He’s a bit annoying to watch but the guy can play. Too much over the top though.
Schenker and the band come on and open with Doctor Doctor. They sound great. I think Doogie is a good fit with them. They rolled into a new song called Live and Let Live then into Lights Out. The crowd was very into it. Schenker and UFO are huge in San Antonio. The set was filled with UFO, MSG and Scorpions songs. Michael’s playing was just stellar. His rhythm guitarist/keyboardist, Wayne Findlay, also provided great backing vocals. The whole band looked like they were having fun. It was a killer show. Now I need to see Y&T next time they’re around.
I also got a bonus signature in the book from original Devastation bassist, Alex Dominguez. Score!
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