Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: Bob Dylan stumbles, Roger Daltrey fumbles, Keith Moon crumbles... but the band(s) play on!
Some of the most memorable concerts I've attended are those
in which the performers reveal themselves to be real human beings -- when
carefully planned performances go astray and the artist reveals he or
she is as flawed as the rest of us mere mortals. Some may say that's
sadistic. I say that it's refreshing. It levels the playing field and
breaks down the barriers, both real and imagined, that exists between
us and our idols.
Sometimes, it's just a minor glitch, like
the one that transpired during a double bill featuring Bob Dylan and the
Dead at BankAtlantic Center a few years back. As always, Dylan didn't
bother to acknowledge the audience at all, maintaining his holier than
thou aura of aloofness throughout the concert. But when he joined the
Dead after their individual sets and nearly tripped over an errant
cable, it showed he was less than god-like after all.
Costello, normally the king of cool, also lost his footing when he
headlined at the old Sunrise Musical Theater back in the mid '90s. As
Elvis himself once decried, indeed, "Accidents Will Happen." No less
than Paul McCartney, a man whose rarified status presumes he hovers
several feet off the ground, narrowly avoided serious injury when he
fell into the piano pit on the second night of his opening stand at
Miami's American Airlines Arena. Don't get me wrong. I didn't wish any of them any injury and I gasped
along with the rest of the crowd when their mishaps took place. The
point is that even the most choreographed presentation is still subject
to human error.
Then again, Macca never fails to prove
he's all too human. During his 2002 appearance at
BankAtlantic Center, he got all teary when his crew waved placards
bearing hearts during an especially poignant rendition of "Long and
Winding Road." It was actually quite touching. Sir Paul isn't the only performer I've seen get choked up onstage. When
Tori Amos played the Jackie Gleason Theater several years ago, prior to
its rechristening as the Fillmore, she was suddenly and inexplicably
overcome by emotion and became so distraught, she had to leave the
stage. I have no idea what caused her to flee, but when she reappeared
a short time later, she had a tall, lavishly attired woman seated next
to her as she sang, as if Tori had talked a pal into coming out and
lending moral support. It all seemed rather odd, to say the least. But
then again, Amos is a model for the sensitive singer/songwriter type.
Perhaps a bit too sensitive methinks.
Speaking of which, I recall a Crosby/Nash concert in the mid '70s at
the old Miami Jai Alai Fronton, once one of South Florida's most
popular venues. With a band that included drummer Russ Kunkel and Danny
Kortchmar, two of the musicians providing support for the recent James
Taylor/Carole King reunion tour, the pair were promoting their "solo"
disc Wind on the Water while reasserting their independence following a
temporary lull in CSNY activities. After the duo brought out special
guest, Carole King, they became enraged when the crowd refused to quiet
down in deference to their attempt to affect a mellow mood. Crosby was
especially adamant and threatened to stop the show, which naturally
egged the audience on even more. It became mighty uncomfortable for all
concerned, with the musicians chastising the audience and the crowd
either ignoring their entreaties or rudely responding with boos.
Compare that with a CSN show several years later at the Knight Center
in Downtown Miami when the Cros was so stoned he could barely stand,
much less sing. This was at the height of his substance abuse problems
and he had become a pretty sad spectacle. I later heard that there was
a massive altercation backstage between the band mates, all pertaining
to Crosby and Stills' prevalent drug use. "Wooden Ships" was in the
repertoire, but Sinking Ships seemed to be the prevalent theme.
The Who's Roger Daltrey also let loose during his solo stint at the
Hard Rock only a few months back. It appeared he was having a rather
barbed private dialogue with some spectators in the front rows when he
let loose with some expletives that he chose to freely share with the
rest of the crowd. He should have spared his voice. Sadly, he was
having trouble hitting the high notes -- or for that matter, any notes
at all. It was so bad in fact that he actually had to start over
several times, and on one song, he finally gave up, letting Simon
Townshend, Pete's baby brother, take over the vocal chores.
Then again, the Who have always been notorious for doing the unexpected
on stage. The best concert I ever witnessed, bar none, was the Who at
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Flushing, New York, the same night as
George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh. Pete Townshend and Keith Moon
jousted back and forth all night, until finally Townshend brought out a
bucket of water and poured it over his hapless drummer's head. Talk
about some spontaneity! I found out later I could have had tickets for
Harrison's extravaganza, but I have no regrets that I saw the Who
instead. In fact, I saw them several times over the years. After
attending their concert at the old Miami Baseball Stadium on August 11,
1971, I learned of another unanticipated occurrence. Two days after
their performance, Moon collapsed after trashing his room at the Miami
Beach Fountainebleau and was hospitalized for nearly a week at
Hollywood Memorial Hospital. It was his second incident that year,
following a blackout during a show in March. Sadly, it foretold the
inevitable. Two years later, the drummer was dead.
These are just some of the unusual incidents I recall from my many
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years of attending concerts. However, they pail compare to an incident
I observed backstage at a Beach Boys concert in the early '80s. But
that's a story in itself and best left until next time. You'll have to
wait a week, but it's worth it because it's a tattered tale indeed.