As you all know, any concert presented by The WAVE is always first class, and targets our audience perfectly.
I am going to venture out past The WAVE concerts to give you an objective list that is all encompassing of the Los Angeles concert scene last year. There were so many good ones, this was a very hard list to assemble. That said, one show stands out above all the others.
(1) FLEETWOOD MAC: It was the first Saturday night after Thanksgiving, at The Forum. I had just seen Fleetwood Mac in 2013 on a trip to Portland Oregon. 4 of the main 5 band members were on stage at that night. Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, and drummer Mick Fleetwood. It was a powerful show, but something (or someone) was missing. That missing element was Christine Mc Vie, who quit touring 1n 1998 as she hates to fly. Bassist John Mc Vie (Christine’s ex-husband) was diagnosed with cancer in late 3013,and Fleetwood Mac had to cancel 14 dates of the tour while John was in treatment. John returned for the final two shows on December 30th and 31st. Christine had attended one of those shows, and told Stevie Nicks that she missed “the gang”. Stevie’s response was “Come back Christine,” and she did in 2014. Now the 1975 core lineup that gave us the 2nd best selling studio album of all time “Rumours” two years later in 1977,was once again a complete group.
Originally a Blues band formed in London way back in 1967, a combination of the names Fleetwood and Mc Vie became Fleetwood Mac. Early efforts included “Black Magic Woman,” later made famous by Santana, and the heavy Peter Green guitar masterpiece “Oh Well.” Numerous personnel changes constantly changed the mix,sound and focus of the group. Although they did create some nice soft rock in the Bob Welch years (“Sentimental Lady”), commercial success eluded them until the Buckingham/Nicks alliance both completed and changed the Fleetwood Mac sound permanently.
Buckingham played his heart out on the hard driving “Big Love,””Never Goin’ Back Again” and “Second Hand News.” Stevie Nicks has a story for almost every song. As a teenager in San Francisco she idolized Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, and eventually she and Lindsey opened for both. Everyone knows Stevie Nick’s standout songs”Rhiannon,” “Dreams,””Sara,” “Gypsy,” “Gold Dust Woman” and “Landslide.” But did you know it was Christine’s “Over My Head” that was Fleetwood Mac’s first big hit? Christine also added her rich voice and piano/keyboards on “Say You Love Me,” “You Make Lovin’ Fun,” “Little Lies” and “Everywhere”. Mick wailed on his drums for a long solo during “World Turning”. Oddly, only one Fleetwood Mac song credits all 5 as writers,”The Chain”. They opened with that one, and gave us nearly a 3 hour, top notch show. All 5 members of the band still nail it, and with conviction. This was a much different experience than other reunion tours, that other groups have done just for the money. Christine’s return made the circle of music complete. After all of the marriages, divorces, break-ups,make-ups, and band upheavals, it is very clear to the audience that these five people clearly love each other. That’s the Fleetwood Mac magic, and why they augment each other so well. This is why Fleetwood Mac is # 1 on my list. After each show, Mick Fleetwood introduces John Mc Vie as his best friend, and he means it.
(2) THE EAGLES: They were the first big show at the newly renovated Forum back in January. As with Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles played The Forum in it’s heyday back in the 1970’s and early 80’s. Glenn Frey stated after the first song that no venue captures their sound better than The Forum. I first saw the Eagles back in 1974 in Sacramento with my friend “Jim The Spaceman” (long story). Jim lives in Minnesota and flew out of sub-zero weather to see them with me forty years later. It was a great show, played in semi-biographical order from the early country flavored hits of “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (played with former Eagle Bernie Leadon), to the hard rockin’ hits Joe Walsh was featured on like”Life In The Fastlane” and “Hotel California”. The soft side of Timothy B. Schmidt flavored their final Top 10 hit on 1980’s “I Can’t Tell You Why.”
The “History Of The Eagles Tour” is continuing in 2015, as it should, because I would like to see it again. Founding members Glenn Frey and Don Henley were “sort of brought together” by Linda Ronstadt, when they backed her as touring musicians in the early 1970’s. Glenn used to frequently attend The WAVE Sunday Brunch in the Santa Monica days of i.Cugini, sitting right in front of our broadcast booth. He was very friendly, and I miss seeing him. Former Eagle Randy Meisner was invited back for the tour, but sadly his health prevented it. I’m told former Eagle Don Felder (an eagle from 1974-2001) was NOT invited back. Video has been added to the Eagles shows, and it works well. One vid featured Joe Walsh as (what appeared to be) Godzilla. Another had Glenn Frey traveling west in a ’65 Mustang encompassing all 8 states on Route 66, while he performed “Already Gone,” one of my favorite Eagles songs. I have seen the Eagles many times in their 40 year career, this was the best show. “Hell has frozen over” yet again, as these guys are always reluctant to play together. It was great to see and hear Bernie Leadon back with the band again.
(3) BILLY JOEL: Hard to believe but Billy hardly ever appears in Los Angeles, even though he wrote his first big hit and signature song “Piano Man” at the long defunct Executive Room Bar, located near the corner of Wilshire and Western. Now 65, Billy has not had a charted hit in 20 years, but still packs in the fans at his monthly Madison Square Garden shows in New York. His recent tour with Elton John re-established Billy as one of the best entertainers and singer/songwriters of our generation. From the slow Jazz number “New York State Of Mind” to the hard-rockin’ “You May Be Crazy” brought the house down at the Hollywood Bowl last May. Billy covers it all from Pop and Rock to Doo-Wop and Jazz. He is still at the top of his game, and well worth seeing if he ever returns.
(4) CHER: (July 2014) Cher has been part of my musical experience all of my life. She has had more farewell tours that she has had husbands. Cher first smashed thru the radio in the 1960’s with her first husband Sonny Bono. “Baby Don’t Go” was the first of many Sonny & Cher classics, followed by “I Got You Babe,” “The Beat Goes On” and many more. Cher’s life has always been an open book, and she embraces the early part of her career with a nice tribute to Sonny on the current tour. Cher had many solo hits while still part of the “Sonny & Cher” team, but exploded as a solo artist in the late 1980’s and 90’s. “If I Could turn Back Time” and “Just like Jesse James” sound like they were recorded yesterday. Always having a rather deep voice, Cher has been able to keep her unique talent both creative and relevant for 5 decades. All of the “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” that helped create Cher’s touring show deserve awards. At 68, she was still able to amass at least 13 costume changes during her nearly 3 hour performance, climaxing with her hovering over the audience in sparkling sequins waving goodbye to everyone. A night not to forget, and I predict Cher will probably never really retire. I hope not, because so many truly love her, and she taught all the other divas how to do it.
(5) GLADYS KNIGHT / KOOL & THE GANG: Next to Billy Joel, this was the best show I saw at the Hollywood Bowl this year. Just barely 70, and looking 20 years younger, Gladys spills her heart and soul all over the stage. She climbed on the “Midnight Train To Georgia” back in 1973. It changed her career forever. This was the first of a long string of hits she had after leaving Motown, where she was considered (in her own words), a “second string” artist. Hard to believe as “I Heard It Thru The Grapevine,” “If I Were Your Woman,” and “Neither One Of Us” were all hits on Motown. Gladys performed them all and also my personal favorites “On and On” and “Imagination.” Another first class show, made even better by the opening “Celebration” of party band “Kool & The Gang.”
Happy New Year!