Friday, May 25, 2012

A Night to Remember

The year of the cross things off of my bucket list.
Not the catchiest of slogans.
But in a matter of weeks I've managed to take care of two biggies.
First a trip to New Orleans.
And now Van Halen in concert.
WITH David Lee Roth.
About 25 years ago, I got to see a Van Hagar show.
And it was fantastic.
But until last night, I had never seen the real Van Halen.
From the first time I heard "So This is Love".
Or "Big Bad Bill".
Or "I’m the One".
I fell in love with this group.
But for one reason or more I never got to see the original band together in concert.
Hey, there was nothing wrong with the Sammy Hagar years.
But for anyone who saw Willie Mays play for the Mets.
You didn’t really see Willie Mays.
No disrespect to the Mets.
Or Sammy Hagar.
But Van Halen is David Lee Roth.
And of course it’s Eddie... and Alex.
And it’s Michael Anthony too.
But as much as the bass makes the music better.
The bass player is not the one wearing the sparkly jacket, doing the karate kicks in the middle of the stage.
That would be David Lee Roth.
And Thursday night he didn’t disappoint.
Oh, there were times he tried.
His voice is NOWHERE near what it used to be.
His dance moves were more Arthur Murray than Arthur Conley.
And that cliche smile made me feel more like he was running with the politicians.
Than running with the devil.
But other than that, Dave was flawless.
Even after all these years, this guy is 100% rockstar.
Well sorta.
At one point during the show I tweeted:
David Lee Roth is 75% showman, 82% caricature, 96% entertainer. That adds up to 100%, right? 
@RealCdnAngel liked that tweet so much, she made it one of her favorites.
Like the Bruce Springsteen show I attended in New Orleans, I decided to tweet the set list, live as it happened.
But unlike the boss, I’m not as well versed in Van Halen song names.
And that came back to bite me.
Several times.
I can probably blame my love for live tweeting on ADD, but I sure did enjoy it.
Instead of losing my real voice, I got to express my inner one.
Tweeting things like:

    • David Lee Roth averted major disaster during song 1. During spin, sunglasses fell off. He caught them before they hit ground. Phew.
    • No sign ... yet... that the band hates each other.
    • DLR just did 1st back bend of night in song 4... 
    • And there it is .. 9:20pm MT... David Lee Roth first karate kick of night. Good news, he survived.
    • Guy one row in front of me just missed a note on air guitar during Eddie solo.
    • Three sets of leg splits by DLR during Beautiful Girls.
    • DLR to lady in front row: "I made my first sex tape in 1982. I slept w/any girl w/two legs in her pants. Even an amputee." TMI DLR.
    • Song 24 -- new DLR sparkly jacket. ANOTHER one. -- Ain't talkin bout love. David Lee Roth has missed more words than he has sang.
    • BREAKING NEWS: 10:51pm MT . David Lee Roth's latest sparkly jacket has been taken off.
    • 10:54pm MT, #VanHalen leaves Denver stage after Jump. Our 1st clue was confetti shot off during song, then DLR waving checkered flag.
It’s amazing how much love you can spread through just 140 characters.
And it goes both ways.
Like @joesanders33.
He informed me that “VH fans do not wear earplugs” after I announced that I did.
My new BFF @RealCdnAngel told me I need to “listen to more Roth era albums” when I didn’t remember a name to a song.
A song that was released 32 years ago.
But the highlight of the twitter night for me came about an hour after the show.
That's when @wolfvanhalen retweeted a picture I took at the concert.
You see @wolfvanhalen is Wolfgang Van Halen.
Eddie’s son.
And the new bass player in the group.
How cool is that?
Me and Wolfie exchanging tweets.
That was my brush with greatness.
It’s almost like we almost met.
In all, the show ran five minutes short of two hours.
A decent time for a big-time rock band.
But considering that this big-time rock band may not be together for much longer, I’ll take anything I can get.
Other than a few songs off the new album.
I knew them all.
All 25.
And those 25 included pretty much every song you would want to hear.
Including the covers.
What I didn’t realize until recently is how much Roth was responsible for the unique sound of early Van Halen.
Not the insanely crazy guitar shredding.

That was all Eddie.

Or the hard-pounding drum rolling.
That’s all Alex.
But I’m told that Dave does deserve credit for taking an old classic.
And making it new.
Making it VAN HALEN.
Like You Really Got Me.
Dancing in the Street.
Pretty Woman.
Happy Trails.
I could go on.
It was Dave’s love of music that helped VH separate themselves from VH1.
And based on that, I’m guessing it was Dave who picked the opening band for this concert tour.
Kool & the Gang.
Yes, that Kool & the Gang.
Is there another?
That match didn’t really seem to make sense.
Kinda like when Eddie Van Halen hooked up with the little sister from One Day at a Time.
But unlike that marriage, Kool & the Gang worked out just fine.
They played for like 47 minutes and never once did I look at my watch.
One hit song after another.
Wrapping their night with a six-minute version of Celebrate.

Good thing they didn’t forget that one.
I found out at the show that the Kool in the group is actually bass player Robert “Kool” Bell.
And the Gang on this night was a group of 10 other guys.
10 amazing musicians.

So amazing I actually saw a bunch of 40-something white guys try to dance.

I wish I hadn't.

But they certainly set the tone for a great night of music.

A night of music that was well worth the wait.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Summer Lovin'

The year was 1979.
I was 12 years old.
It was Bar Mitzvah season in San Diego.
That pretty much meant that for two or three weekends every month.
We would spend two or three hours in a synagogue.
For the service.
And two or three more at a local hotel.
For the reception.
As terrifying as that may sound now, it never got old.
And the schedule of events never really changed:
    • Blessing on the bread
    • Hava Nagila
    • Eat the rubber chicken
    • Last Dance by Donna Summer
In that order.

Ok, I left out a few details.
But one thing for sure.
As soon as we heard Donna’s sultry voice, the parents headed for the parking lot.
While the kids headed for the pergo dance floor.
For the final time.
Like Kent Tekulve, Last Dance was the #1 closer in 1979.

The final song at every reception.
It was one of those ballad/disco combo songs.
For the first 81 seconds we got a chance to slow dance.
Which felt like you were going steady.
If you had a partner.
And felt like you had a big L on your forehead.

If you didn’t.
Just as you were starting to get comfy.
Donna kicked it into high gear.
So let's dance the last dance
Let's dance the last dance
Let's dance this last dance tonight
Reading the words on this blog doesn’t quite do it justice.
One second, I’ve got my hands on Jenny’s hips.
The next second I’m Tony Manero.
On a Saturday night.
Moving my feet like they’ve never moved before.
If I wasn’t at a Bar Mitzvah, you never would’ve believed I was Jewish.
That song was what music was all about.
In 1979.
And it still holds up today.
Unlike Boogie Oogie Oogie.
Or Boogie Fever.
Or pretty much anything with Boogie in the title.
Last Dance is a timeless classic.
And so is Donna Summer.

Well, so 
was  Donna Summer.
She died on Thursday.
At the ripe young age of 63.
A victim of cancer.
Donna Summer was Whitney before Whitney.
Christina before Christina.
Mariah before Mariah.
Back in her day, Donna Summer was the queen of the world.
The Queen of Disco.
The only musical act to release three #1 double albums.

The first female to have four #1 singles in a one-year period.
The first female artist to have a #1 single AND a #1 album at the same time.

MacArthur Park
Heaven Knows
Hot Stuff
Bad Girls
Dim All the Lights
No More Tears
On the Radio

I could go on.

Ask anybody who grew up in the 70’s... like me... to name the greatest female voices of all-time.
And Donna Summer.... won’t make the list.
It’s not that she doesn’t belong.
It’s that our memories are too short.
Just like her career.
In 1979, she had more hot singles than Magic Johnson.
Five years later, she was working hard for her money.
So hard for it honey.
But she wasn’t going anywhere.
This hot stuff had turned ice cold.

Other than a guest appearance here.  

Or a #18 song there.  

The long hot summer had ended.  

And it was time for a fall.

She got caught up in a bit of a controversy in the mid-80’s when she allegedly made some anti-gay comments.
Comments she denied ever making.
But nevertheless, the bulb had burned out on her spotlight.

In 2008, Rolling Stone Magazine came out with their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time.
The same year Donna was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Donna didn’t make the Hall.
And she didn’t make their list either.
Bob Dylan did.
He was #7.
Clearly their definition of “singer” is different than mine.
But not having the voice which DOMINATED an entire generation was a definite oversight.
Bjork made the list.
So did Toots Hibbert.
Even Mary J. Blige snuck in at #100.
But no sign of Donna Summer.
Now that she is gone, I’m sure there have been plenty of tributes.
But unless you lived through the Disco era.
And attended Bar Mitzvah receptions every other Saturday.
There is no way that you can appreciate the greatness that was Donna Summer.
Long live the Queen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Survivor: Poland

"One of the best Seinfeld episodes."
That's like saying one of the best Dylan songs.
There's just too many to choose from to say "one of the best."
But one of the best Seinfeld episodes was when Jerry took a date to see Schindler's List.
Yada yada yada.
They started making out.
Oh the sacrilege.
Not since Mel Brooks and The Producers had someone successfully made something funny about the Holocaust.
Marge Schott tried.
But only few have succeeded.
After all, let's be very clear here, there is nothing funny about the Holocaust.
From what people remember.
As a proud Jewish person, the Holocaust is worse than any moment in time that this world has ever experienced.
But the bottom line is the Holocaust is history.
Just a part of the past.
And that's a tragedy in itself.

Despite the bumper stickers and post cards, people have forgotten.
People have moved on.
That's what people do.
For many, the Holocaust is nothing more than a made for TV movie.
I'm not minimizing the tragedy or significance in any way shape or form.
But as we creep farther and farther away from the end of World War II, the memories will fade even more.
And so will the people who survived the wrath of Nazi Germany.
The number of Holocaust survivors still alive today is somewhere between 100,000 and 350,000.
This according to the trusty internet.
But no matter what the real number is, one thing for sure, it’s not going to go up.
Last year my daughter’s 8th grade class took a trip to Washington DC.
And as part of that trip, we visited the Holocaust Museum.
It was, BY FAR, the most emotional stop on our four-day trip.
Parents, teachers and even kids were clearly affected by what they saw.
And ten minutes after we got on the bus... the giggling started again.
I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.
But I’m not sure it’s a good thing either.
Next year my 7th grade son will make that same trip.
But recently his class got an up close and personal introduction to the subject.
Her name is Estelle Nadel.
She is a survivor.
For 37 minutes Mrs. Nadel addressed our middle school.
She told us her story of growing up in Poland.
And the story of her father being shot to death by the Gestapo.
Along with her sister.
She told us about the time she and her brother were captured by the Nazis.
Thrown in a jail.
At the age of five.
“We knew we were going to be shot the next morning,” she said.
Matter of fact.
Like we would say, “change the channel”.
She told us about how they successfully escaped from that jail.
Barely squeezing their undernourished frames through the iron bars on the window.
Somehow landing in a friend of a friend’s attic.
An attic where “you couldn’t even stand up because the floor was too weak.”
They stayed there for two years.
Until the war ended.
She has probably shared these stories at least six million times.
But several times during her speech tears formed in her eyes.
And she wasn’t the only one.
I made a point to sit alone, in the back of the room.
So that I could listen to her every word.
While watching the reaction of the kids.
I wondered how much they would really take from it.
Her speech ended at 10:34am with what appeared to be her signature out.
“That’s my story and that’s my life.”
She then opened it up to questions.
Questions that quickly confirmed a few things.

Kids are kids.

And yes, they were paying attention.
“Are you still mad at Germany for what they did?”
“What did you do in the attic all day?”
“Have you been back to Poland?”
The questions continued.
For 18 minutes.
Not 17.
Not 19.
Which in Judaism means Chai... or life.
Living in white bread suburbia, I may have been the only one in the room to pick up on that.
But I found it symbolic.
Always the journalist I went up to her after the speech and asked her if she had seen Schindler's List.
"Yes," she said.  "It was the first movie of its kind I ever saw."  
"It was terrible...."
Just then, before she could say any more, she stopped.
Midway through her sentence.
A group of teenage girls had come up to thank her.
And one-by-one, they hugged.  
I never got the rest of the answer to my question.
But I didn’t have to.

Her mission was very much accomplished.