Couple of days behind getting this done; my apologies. I have been a bit under the weather the past 3--4 months and it all came to a head about 3 weeks ago. Turns out I had a blocked artery going to my stomach and upper intestine.
On Wednesday the 14th, I had a stent put in to correct the problem. Recovery was rapid! So much so that just 3 days after surgery and 2 days after being released from the hospital, WITH MY DOCTOR'S PERMISSION, I was able to attend the show!
Sorry to take up space here telling you about this, but I have not yet been able to share this with many of you. Let's get on with the review!
I guess you could say this all started way back on Wednesday, 12Feb. Right before the 10:00am time to start ordering tickets, Vera and I were texting and calling each other eager to be the first to buy. We were purchasing the Premiere Guitar package to guarantee front row seats; I because this was my hometown show and Vera and Tom because it would be their 17th wedding anniversary. I guess I was the second person in line as I got Section 103, Row A, Seat 2; Vera and Tom were next with seats 3-4.
Fast forward to 4:15pm on Saturday, 17May, double checking that I have my ticket, camera and cell phone as I head out the door for the short 12.01 mile drive straight down I-30 to the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, TX. This is the same venue where FOREIGNER and Styx opened the United in Rock Tour exactly 4 years and 5 days before. This is a really great venue nestled slightly closer to Dallas than to Fort Worth with a seating capacity of 6350. The seats are large and deeply padded on both the bottom and back (although who's going to be sitting down at a FOREIGNER concert). Arriving at the venue right at 4:30pm I had time to check out the back area to see if the boys had arrived yet (they had not) and ran into Kym Grynvall (also checking to see who had arrived) and got to visit her a bit.
Two local radio stations, including classic rock rock station 92.5 KZPS had their vans parked out front so I ventured around to see it 30+ year morning DJs Bo and Jim were there; unfortunately they were not. Babs, David and Nick met them with me at the September 2011 show in Dallas when we were the "Texas Troupe".
Well, soon Tom and Vera arrived, I met up with them and we caught up on stuff as we sat in the air conditioned comfort of their SUV awaiting time to go get in line for the M/G. The breezy, humid 85 degree atmosphere was a bit much for these Chicagolanders who had just come from a cold snowy Chicago a couple days before. This was their second stop of 8 consecutive shows starting the night before in Oklahoma City; and as I said previously, it was their 17th wedding anniversary!
Before we knew it, it was 5:15pm, time to go get in line for the M/G. Brandon was there at about 5:30pm to meet the 21 of us who had either purchased the guitar or drum kit package, get us checked in, and start to take us back stage. As Tim is now Mick's full time assistant, Brandon is pulling double duty as both Merch guy and M/G guy, and doing a mighty fine job of it!
As you probably know, it takes a few minutes for the guys to get ready for the M/G and at about 6:15pm Brandon led our group into the room where our boys were about to make their appearance. We got to speak with Tim for a minute before they came in. So our boys make it into the room and the line starts moving and we got our brief but sweet time with the boys and Robin before heading out and to our seats, but not before getting to chat with Phil Carson, who was also there.
So we make our way down to Section 103, Row A and find to our utter delight there are only 6 seats in a very exclusive front row center section. The angling of the adjacent sections are such that you do not see them in your peripheral, giving the illusion you are the only ones there in front of a decent sized stage probably 4 feet above ground level and approximately 10 feet from the stage with no barrier to the stage. To add to this exclusivity, those seated in the front row, and those seated in Row B of our section, were given wrist bands allowing us to go up to the stage; security personnel blocked the aisles preventing anyone else from going up to the stage. I guess you could say this was some pretty tough security and normally I would not have liked it (as I would have been one of those trying to steal the stage if I didn't have an actual front row ticket), but considering how much I had paid for the opportunity to be where I was, this evening it was most welcomed!
As this is my hometown, there were quite a few folks I know who were in attendance, including Julie who I went to high school with and got to visit with some, and Lynana, who I have worked with for many years. Jumping ahead just a little here, Lynana came down to visit with me just before FOREIGNER went on stage. She and her husband were seated in our section a few rows back. As the lights started to go down, and as security was chasing off those without wrist bands, I held my banded left arm up for security to see, and embraced Lynana with my other arm and security passed us by! Not only was I able to enable Lynana having the "at stage-center" experience with me, Chris gave her a drum stick at the show's conslusion as well! Also in attendance were my very dear and longtime friends Vicki and Julie (a different Julie from the one above). Vicki and I attended a show together in June 2002; Julie was with me front row in November 2008 at the Dallas House of Blues and front row with me at the Racetrack Children's Charity Acoustic Show in Downtown Fort Worth April 9, 2012. They unfortunately were seated in the nose bleed section on this night.
So let the show begin! Don Felder and his band took the stage, and I must say, I was quite impressed! While I'm really not that great of an Eagle's fan, as I favor the harder edge a bit more, he did put on quite a show. The third song of his set was a dedication to the late great Texas guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaugh, playing his song "Pride and Joy". His first song of the evening was "Already Gone", followed by "One of These Nights", the previously mentioned "Pride and Joy", "You Don't Know Me" which is a fairly recent song of his own. Next he played "Those Shoes". I really enjoyed this song as he and his rhythm guitar guy traded off singing/mouthing into the plastic tubing-synthesizing-funny sound thing that is a trademark of this song. Next he played a very crowd pleasing "Seven Bridges Road" which he described came about as the song the Eagles would sing together before a show to see who was hitting it or not that night. After "Witchy Woman" he played what I guess is my favorite song of his - "Heavy Metal". Guess I'm dating myself here when I say that I really enjoyed that song and the movie that it was the title track to way back in....1981?!?!
Next came two definite crowd pleasers and all-around fun songs "Heartache Tonight" and "Life in the Fast Lane". So guess what he concluded with? You're right - "Hotel California". For this song Tommy Shaw of Styx joined Don onstage and they traded off vocals.
All in all, I was quite impressed and really enjoyed Don's opening act!
Next we have Styx. Styx has always been my second favorite band. From the heart murmuring thump of the bass drum at the beginning of and shrieking synthesizer throughout of "Renegade", the other-worldly riff of "Come Sail Away" to the funky beat of "Too Much Time on My Hands", Styx's music has always been amongst my favorite.
Opening the show with "The Grand Illusion", Styx made an impressive entrance onto an other-worldly industrial looking stage attired in shimmering sequined dress coats. Next came one of my favorites, the previously mentioned "Too Much Time on My Hands", followed by "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" and their power-ballad "Lady". Styx dug deep into their vault, asking the audience to turn on their i-phone lights as they dove into the rarely-performed "Light Up". Next, Tommy Shaw took to the microphone, describing how the next song was very near and dear to him, as it was something he was working on when he first auditioned for the band; how this song and the album it titled became the first recorded bit of work with him as a member of Styx. This song is also very near and dear to MY heart as it was my senior class song in high school. Won't You Tell Me, Tell Me where I'm going with this? Crystal Ball. It was kind of hard to hide the moisture in my eyes as I experienced for the first time live this true gem of a song. Again digging deep into their vault came "Super Stars" followed by another favorite "Blue Collar Man" and their anthem "Come Sail Away" concluding the main set. After a moment or so Styx came back to the stage "Rockin' The Paradise" followed by and concluding with the hard rocker "Renegade".
Yes I do love Styx's music; not as much as FOREIGNER's of course, but again, enough to call them my second favorite band. In my opinion, it was that music that carried the show. The light show was good, and there were some interesting special effects, like the high-powered jets spewing smoke in the air. I guess they were carbon dioxide based because soon after they went off (and I forget which song it was) this blast of frigid air came rolling off the stage chilling us. And of course there is Lawrence Gowan's rotating synthesizer that's allot of fun.
But when it comes to stage presence, in my opinion, they were much too stiff and mechanical. All-in-all however, they put on a great show and one that myself and the rest of the crowd truly enjoyed.
Now on to the main event - F O R E I G N E R ! ! !
What I've yet to mention is how quickly the combined crews turn the sets around. The breaks between acts was only about 20 minutes. The techies worked really hard and it kept us from being able to have more than quick exchanges of pleasantries or acknowledging head tilts with our great techies Lorenzo, Eddie, Josh and Sparky. Unfortunately Cosmo is off in Europe with Aerosmith right now but Babs and I did get to chat with him in Portsmouth last month. We really have some great techies. Please remember to say hello to them the next time you get the chance and let them know how much you appreciate what they do behind the scenes to put the show together.
While this evening's show was not officially a sell-out, from my perspective, I could not see an empty seat in the house. Like I said, they turn the acts really quickly, and before we knew it, the lights were going down, and the intro music that starts the show, and makes the hair stand on the back of my neck every time, starts up...
Lady's and Gentlemen...will you PLEASE welcome...F O R E I G N E R ! ! !
The Set List -
Cold As Ice
Waiting For A Girl Like You
Feels Like the First Time
I Want to Know What Love Is
Let's start off with the light show - absolutely freekin' BRILLIANT! Literally and figuratively. I had told the guys at the M/G that because of my surgery I would have to take it easy and couldn't rock out like I usually do; that I was going to take the opportunity to get some good pics as I really haven't taken many pics during a show in quite a while because I'm enjoying the show too much to be distracted with it. But while I was able to get a number of good pics, the lights were just too freekin' bright to get some of the shots I wanted. The massive bright white lights washed everything out, while the lasers were difficult to capture, and they were just too spectacular to look at through a camera lens. Cosmo - great job in setting it all up!!!
Our boys had some similar high powered smoke jets as STYX's that were deployed throughout URGENT and JUKEBOX HERO. Very impressive! But overpowering the jets, and overpowering us at the stage, was the fog used during STARRIDER. It may have been just a bit too much - I mean this fog was THICK and made it a bit difficult to breath. If the stage was at 4 feet, the fog at times was another four or so feet above the stage, making it impossible for us to see the band, and from what I hear, it basically covered up the band on the lower parts of the stage as well. It was impressive, though! When it would start to dissipate, as the band members started to reappear, it was a very surreal vision in front of us. As I was at absolute dead center, and Mick was maybe 15 feet directly in front on me, as his image began to appear from the fog, it gave him a somewhat....how should I say it, Mick in his white shirt and white pants with a black vest...it gave him an almost....HEAVENLY appearance. I won't go any farther than that....
This thick fog was emitted in waves, so during most of the song, the band was obscured from my viewing. But towards the end, less fog was emitted. A brilliant multi-colored laser in primarily a pyramid shape was shining down on Mick and I was able to get quite a spectacular picture. With the fog now dissipated enough on the stage floor, Mick appears to be walking on a cloud. The curved swirls of the cloud compliment the straight lines and angles of the laser and Mick playing his guitar dead on in front of me. The band has posted this picture on their facebook sight so if you haven't seen it already, go there and take a look!
There are more things I can say here, but as usual, I am running very long. The great songs, the incredible stage presence, the cohesiveness of the band members, the interaction with the audience, all combined, as usual, to make for a most enjoyable evening for all, and the reaction of the crowd really made me feel good! Speaking of the crowd - the majority was on their feet through the entire show! I believe it was only once Kelly had to tell people to "Get up off your a..!!!"
And thus concluded a night of pure entertainment.
But before I go, I would like to say this. You know I usually get a little mushy at some point in my reviews. I'm about to turn it up a notch.
I already mentioned that when I was backstage I told the guys about my health problems and the surgery I had to correct it. What I didn't mention was the compassion and caring with which they responded to what I had to say. They were genuinely concerned for my well being and each of them wished me a very speedy and complete recovery. Mick was particularly concerned and interested in hearing more about it as he, as you all know, has had his own similar but different experience in the past three years.
Our guys are not just professional musicians out there doing a job. They are compassionate human beings who love their families, love their fans, and love what they do, probably in that order. I consider myself more than an acquaintance with them, and feel very blessed with the amount of personal, short, but sweet time I have had the great opportunity to over the past 5 years. I do and always will respect the professional boundary between fan and band member. But deep inside, I affectionately call them my friends.
And that's why I'm gonna keep on ROCKIN'!!!
Until next time!