Sunday, November 12, 2006

Clintster On Tour part 1

Blue Öyster Cult/Rush
James Brown Arena-April 23, 1986

I was a late bloomer in life. I got into popular music later than most people. I was also introduced to more carnal pleasures later than most, but that’s a whole different subject. Still, I managed in my life to see some pretty cool shows in my bachelorhood. From time to time, I intend to blog on the concerts I saw and the circumstances surrounding them. I can’t promise they’ll all be barnburners, but I think I need to write their stories down before I forget them.

My first concert came when I was 21 years old. I was still a sheltered kid from the mountains of North Carolina, looking for a place to fit in. I was working as a stockroom manager at a cafeteria in North Augusta, SC, still wondering if I would ever make it into college. My only outlet was listening to music, and one of my favorite bands was Rush. I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to play bass like Geddy Lee or play drums like Neil Peart.

At this time, their current release was Power Windows, an album I thoroughly enjoyed. My favorite song was “Mystic Rhythms”, but I was fond of most of the tracks, and I played my cassette of it constantly. When I heard that they were coming to Augusta to play a concert, I knew I had to catch the show one way or another. The fact that Blue Oyster Cult was opening for them didn’t hurt matters, as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” was one of my all-time favorite songs.

I went to the local record store in March and bought two tickets, intending to use them as chick bait to find a date for the show. Gimme a break; at the time, I was young and naïve and seriously overestimated the sensual drawing power of a Canadian power trio who espoused a fondness for the writings of Ayn Rand. Unfortunately, my current social circle consisted of the people I worked with at the cafeteria, and of them the only person I would even think of inviting was dating some other guy.

There was one girl who had a crush on me, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. When I offered to take her to the show (mostly to get her off my back), she immediately rejected the offer, saying she didn’t go to “Devil music” shows. Mind you, this was the stretched out notch of the Bible Belt back in the ‘80s, when busybodies were concerned more with finding Satan hidden in the backwards-played grooves of a metal record than actually paying attention to their own children.

I finally turned to my friend Johnny. He was a guy I had become friends with when my family moved to the Augusta area two years before. He agreed, and on that fateful night, I took my ticket and about 20 bucks and we headed to the James Brown Arena (then creatively called the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center).

The show was general seating, so Johnny and I made our way to the floor and managed to work ourselves to a spot just a few feet from the stage. BOC opened the show, and played a pretty good set. I wasn’t as familiar with their work as I was with Rush’s, but I still enjoyed myself and sang along with the stuff I knew. Judging from my own slightly fuzzy memory of the audience’s reaction, the most popular song after “Reaper” was “Godzilla.”

When BOC finished their set, they left and it seemed like an eternity in the time between acts. Finally, the theme to “The Three Stooges” played, and Rush hit the stage and launched into “The Big Money” which was the big single off of “Power Windows.” I had a shit-eating grin for the remainder of the concert, and I’m not sure, but I think I caught Geddy Lee looking my direction a couple of times and smiling. He was probably thinking “what a freakin’ hick”, but I didn’t care; I was enjoying myself.

It was amazing! They played nearly everything off of Power Windows, and still had plenty of time to put in many of the audience favorites. “Closer to the Heart.” “The Spirit of Radio.” “2112” “The Trees”

The centerpiece, however, was of course “Tom Sawyer.” What “Don’t Fear the Reaper” was/is to BOC, “Tom Sawyer” is to Rush. What makes that song so special to me? Well, I could say it’s the lyrics, which kinda bridge the gap between Mark Twain’s character and that of Paul Atredies in Fran Herbert’s Dune series. OR it could be the fact that Geddy Lee found a way to make synthesizers fit into metal (although that may have been a curse more than a blessing, as it paved the way for Europe’s “The Final Countdown”.)

If pressed, however, and you don’t have to press hard, I would have to say the secret ingredient in “Tom Sawyer” has to be what I regard as “The Greatest Freakin’ Drum Solo EVER!” In the instrument break, as the band prepares to go back to the prechorus, Neil Peart lets loose with a drum solo that simply leaves me breathless every time. Seeing it live in my first concert only seared my opinion of the solo, as I saw Peart beat his drum kit like it owed him money. That was when I knew that I had chosen well for my first rock concert.

I left the area with my hearing diminished ever so slightly, a Rush shirt I had bought after the show, and a sense that I was a little more attuned to the world around me. I also had the feeing of what it was like to have a complete stranger rub on you in a crowded arena, as someone had done that throughout Rush’s set. I was afraid to turn around and face the snuggler, afraid that it would be a bit older and more male than I would have liked.

Still in all, it was a great first show for me to attend. It would have been a bit better for me socially if I had gone to this concert (or one like it) about five years earlier, but I’m still glad that I am able to count this as my first.

Intro ("Three Stooges Theme")
The Spirit Of Radio
The Big Money
Manhattan Project
Middletown Dreams
Witch Hunt
Red Sector A
Closer To The Heart
The Trees
Mystic Rhythms
Distant Early Warning
Drum Solo
Red Lenses
Encore: Tom Sawyer
The Temples Of Syrinx
Grand Designs
In The Mood

NEXT TIME: My last concert (to date)

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