Friday, November 18, 2005

John Lennon & JFK: Memories Marked by the Time of the Assassins

by Thomas Dimopoulos

The verse is committed to memory.
'We shall not forget that yesterday you glorified each one of our ages,' wrote Arthur Rimbaud, one of my favorite poets, in one of my favorite poems.
'We know how to give our whole life every day. Now is the time of the Assassins.'

In a few days , the question will be asked like it has every year since the startling crack of gunfire, the sight of a fallen body and the doom-filled scent of change hung in the air
that Friday in November 42 years ago: Where were you when John F. Kennedy died?

We will hear that the nation cried and that the flags flew at half-staff, how the church bells mournfully rang and we will be reminded of local scenes of that day when thousands of this city's residents walked with heads solemnly bowed to memorial services, passing closed Broadway businesses whose dark, midday windows shaped an eerie contrast to their glittering storefronts decorated for the holiday season.

It was the time of the assassin.

A few weeks from today, we will be reminded that 25 years have passed since the day Mark David Chapman sat on the floor of his apartment in Hawaii and stared at the front cover of
The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' album. Most music fans played the game
of trying to spot the images of Bob Dylan and Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.

Chapman looked at the faces on the cover and decided to kill John Lennon.

We will read how Chapman came to New York City and stalked the ex-Beatle. And we see
once again the pictures of Chapman getting Lennon's autograph shortly before he murdered
the musician in front of the upper west side building on a late Monday night in Manhattan.

Somebody will remember, how two days later, more than 1,000 local fans gathered on the
steps of the State Capitol in Albany to burn candles, hold hands and sing 'Give Peace a Chance' during a 45-minute vigil to the slain musician. And we will be told that today the murderer
is 50 years old, lives in a small cell at Attica Correctional Institution, and as the Dec. 8 anniversary nears we will hear the question: Where were you when John Lennon died?

As anniversaries go, history remembers a long list in the time of the assassin.

Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in 44 B.C.; .Caligula assassinated by his guards in 41 A.D., and Claudius I poisoned by his wife, 13 years later.

Henry IV relinquished the Kingdom of France when assassinated in Paris in 1610,
and Mahatma Gandhi, a man of peace, was killed by gunfire on his way to a prayer meeting
in 1948.
Bullets also claimed the lives of U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield
and William McKinley, before JFK was shot Nov. 22, 1963.

In the time since, there have been theories about how different the world would look today
had Kennedy lived. Despite the promise of a new youthful vigor ruling the West Wing, many have concluded that things probably wouldn't be all that different.
The real changes, some say, would have happened if JFK's brother- Robert F. Kennedy - had survived the attempt on his life in 1968. That too, was the time of the assassin.

James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King Jr. in April. Two months later, Sirhan Sirhan fired
a .22 caliber revolver eight times into the crowd at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles,
killing Robert Kennedy, moments after the senator celebrated winning the California Democratic presidential primary.

Consider that if RFK lived and won the White House a few months later, Richard Nixon
would never have taken office as the 37th President of the U.S.

Kennedy ran on an anti-war platform in 1968. You could imagine the Vietnam War would
have had a different resolution. Watergate would be known as nothing more today than a hotel.

Two of the biggest conflicted events that have colored the American Dream in the past
35 years, gone. Never happened.

You can fantasize what the planet would look like today. Where would you be living?
What would you be doing? How would the country and the world be different?

It may be irresponsible to rewrite history, but you can have a moment to wonder in
amazement how the actions of one affects an entire planet. Forever.

Where were you when Kennedy was killed? Then, it was the time of assassins.
Then, they knew how to give their whole life everyday.

The Saratogian, Nov. 18, 2005.

Kronos Quartet goes back to school

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS - It took every one of the 235 seats at Filene Recital Hall to hold the capacity crowd for the sold out Kronos Quartet performance at Skidmore College Saturday night.

After a flight attendant-like rundown of the hall's fire exits - inspired no doubt by the tragic events at a Rhode Island nightclub 48 hours earlier - all the fireworks during the quartet's 90-minute-plus show came sonically.

''We perform about 100 shows a year all over the world,'' said violinist David Harrington, who founded the group 30 years ago. ''There are so many diverse voices that exist in this world.
Our work is a direct influence of those voices, and of our traveling experiences to Russia and Japan and throughout Europe and Asia,'' Harrington said. ''It's a great immersion.''

True to its embrace of an international repertoire, Kronos' program ranges from the sweet, eyebrow-arching melodies of Portuguese guitarist Carlos Paredes to the eerie, heart-pounding tension of the Romanian-influenced ''Doina.''

Other works originated in Yugoslavia, India, and South America. Among them, a sorrowful string adaptation of Tony MacMahon's Celtic tune ''The Fair-Haired Boy,'' a cacophonous ode
to Icelandic rock group Sigur Ros, and a haunting gypsy-like performance of ''Gloomy Sunday.''

The crowd was every bit as schizoid as the group's sound. Those closest to the stage were adorned in university couture - hipster slacks, black-framed eyewear and flaming streams of multi-colored hair.

The upper rows were flecked with the conservative gray of their more ''experienced'' brethren, giving the hall the appearance of part punk-rock rally, part blue-collar convention.

The quartet performed in a semi-circle, led by Harrington's controlled intensity.

Violinist John Sherba and viola player Hank Dutt added smooth notes in a cool, detached style.

Jennifer Culp, Kronos' newest member, made her cello stomp and hum with a deep, booming resonance.

There was magic and aural illusion in Harrington's ''sul ponticello'' - a form of musical trickery performed by playing close to the instrument's bridge, and in Dutt's string-plucking pizzicato.

During the performance of the Turkish song ''Nihavent Sirto,'' the quartet's shadowy outline projected onto a back wall; its dark silhouette capturing the group in a furious movement
whose syncopated bowstrokes conjured images of madmen raising their sticks in the darkness to do battle with the devil.

One of the evening's most enthusiastic audience responses came from vintage Kronos material - the 1980 piece written by Terry Riley, ''Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector,'' and in the jarring finale of Steve Reich's ''Triple Quartet,'' a work that barges forward in parallel movement, all the while being undercut by a sonic cross current of track and wire.
The piece was also one of several that augmented the quartet's performance with the use of a prerecorded soundtrack.

A standing ovation - complete with a streaming cry of the very UN-classical sounding ''woo-hoos'' - brought the quartet back for a pair of encores from the group's most recent
album, ''Nuevo.''

Here, they performed the sensual Cubano-throbbing beat of ''Tabu'' and the salacious
Esquivel tune ''Miniskirt,'' complete with humorous wolf whistles and cat calls.

After the performance, a good number in the crowd remained for a Q&A session that covered everything from advice to young composers to the quartet's avant-classical styles mixed with their rock 'n' roll persona.

Harrington talked about the state of music and creativity today.

''In my knowledge of music and music history, there has never been a time when there have been so many great musicians and composers as (there are) right now. It's a real good time to be a musician,'' Harrington said. ''Hopefully, it's a real good time to be a music audience, also.''

Originally published in The Saratogian, Feb. 27, 2003

Thursday, November 17, 2005

BRUUUUUCE: The Boss comes bearing gifts

by Thomas Dimopoulos

ALBANY - Bruce Springsteen gave an early Christmas present to the Capital Region with his appearance at the Pepsi Arena on Friday night.

Nearly three hours of music filled the arena on an evening simultaneously graced with
all the joy, intensity and celebration of a lifetime of emotion, and a tribute to the endurance of the human spirit, all rolled into one.

The buzz on South Pearl Street began in August.
Tickets for Springsteen and the E Street Band were gone in less than half an hour. Shortly after 8 p.m. on Friday, “The Boss” strapped on a sunburst Telecaster and led the 10-member ensemble with the rousing opener, “The Rising.”
More than half of the evening’s “regular” 17 song set came from his recent album of the same name.
Eight encore songs would follow.

The audience, meanwhile, was a perpetual sea of waving arms. Alternately, they either pumped in unison or succumbed to a series of goose-pimple shivers invoked during soul-chilling renditions of “Darkness On The Edge of Town” and “The Ties That Bind.”

Classic moments included the spirited raucousness of “No Surrender” and the frenzied, Bo Diddley-slung beat of “She’s The One.” When the band kicked into “Badlands” - the song now a quarter century old - the crowd stomped, clapped and chanted along, “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive,” they sang
“Sylvio, Sylvio, you’re still alive. You’ve made it through another season,” was how Springsteen introduced guitarist and “Sopranos” star Little Steve Van Zandt. Clarence Clemons, who drew some of the biggest cheers of the night, looked sharp in his dark pleated pants and black fedora.
To bandmate and wife Patti Scialfa, Springsteen gushed, “my personal savior,” as the pair soared on a duet called “Empty Sky,” inspiring the image of two doves circling over a ravaged Metropolis together in search of a hopeful clearing.

Springsteen mugged it up for the audience all night long. He hopped atop Roy Bittan’s white baby-grand piano, made a number of running feet-first slides across the stage mid-song and maintained a high level of energy throughout. A pair of giant video screens captured his gestures, from the serene to the intense, and shot them back up close and personal to those seated in the farthest balcony of the arena.

Two hours in came the set’s end, and a curtain call brought back the band for a number of encores. They revived their mid-1980s hit “Dancing In the Dark,” rocked through a spirited “Ramrod” that had Springsteen acting as a human pogo stick, leaping across the stage, then delivered “Born To Run” with the house lights burning in their full white heat.

A second curtain call brought back a somber Springsteen. Taking a seat behind the piano, bathed in majestic purple light, he launched into the opening bars of “My City in Ruins.” Dedicating the song to the supplemental food providers of the Capital Region, he bellowed through the song’s intense chorus, and it felt as if the building itself would be sent skyward in an emotional catapult.

The band then launched into “Born In The USA” - “I play this for you tonight, praying for peace,” he announced - then followed with “Land of Hope And Dreams.”
They eventually concluded with the Chuck Berry rocker, “Around and Around.” It was a spontaneous choice that comically had band members scrambling for instruments and frantically scaling musical notes for the appropriate key. Springsteen just pushed forward even more.
“We’re winging it,” he announced giddily, as the group found their sonic cohesion.

Moments earlier, taking what appeared to be their final collective bow, the band was besieged by a volley of Santa hats that reigned down onto the stage from the audience. “Is this a hint?” Springsteen asked, holding one of the red and white hats in hand.
“Are you trying to tell me something?” He summoned the band yet again and performed a raved-up version of the timely “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town.” Many in the crowd
couldn’t be blamed for thinking that he had already arrived.

published in The Saratogian, Dec. 15, 2002

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Back to Boston: Interview with Boston's Kimberly Dahme

by Thomas Dimopoulos

It is Wednesday morning and Kimberley Dahme is in a Boston hotel room caught in an emotional whirlwind of utter exhaustion and outright exhilaration.

'You have to excuse me. We had a late night last night,' says Dahme, whose specialty these days is playing bass guitar alongside classic rockers Tom Scholz and Brad Delp in the band Boston.

'We've been rehearsing every day - eight, twelve, sometimes as many as 14 hours a day, but I'm just so excited about it,' says Dahme from the group's production headquarters where rehearsals are underway for the band's upcoming tour that kicks off at the Glens Falls Civic Center July 13.

Dating back to the band's earliest days, longtime fans of Boston are used to the guessing game when it comes to their musical heroes. The band's monstrous wall of sound first blew out over radio airwaves in the summer of 1976 and just kept coming. Their self-titled debut became the best-selling pop debut in history. The multimillion selling follow-up 'Don't Look Back,' came two years later. It was the quickest back-to-back issues the group would produce in their entire career. It would be light years, in record industry terms, in between future Boston releases.

Scholz began earning a reputation as being too much of a perfectionist. Scholz held fast.
'Third Stage' would eventually be released in the mid-1980s, 'Walk On' would follow a decade later and the group's fifth album 'Corporate Rock,' was issued in 2002.

'I was a huge Boston fan growing up. My brother was into Boston and introduced me to their music,' Dahme says.
'Sometimes when I'm playing these licks I'm thinking: Oh my God, these are the songs I remember singing along with. These are the songs that I danced to when I was in the fifth
and sixth grade.'

Born in California, Dahme would get to live her ultimate rock 'n' roll fantasy. She says it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. While performing with a rock and blues club band, she was approached by Scholz, who was looking to recruit members in redesigning Boston for the new millennium.
With Dahme's years of musical training as a vocalist under her belt as well as being capable
on guitar, keyboard and flute, Scholz was suitably impressed.

'I have done country, rock and blues. I studied opera and toured Europe for a year when I was younger, so I have done many styles of music,' she says.

With a strong background in country music and a career filled with inspiration by the likes of Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline, Dahme was approached by Scholz who asked the question: Do you play the bass?

She quickly scraped together a couple of hundred dollars she says, ran down to the neighborhood pawn shop and picked up one of those four-string monsters. As her audition date neared, she immersed herself in learning the instrument, even though many close to her were skeptical. 'They said, 'There's no way.'

She got the gig.

Her first official appearance with the band was on New Year's Day 2002, performing the National Anthem at the Fiesta Bowl in front of tens of thousands of people in attendance and millions more on TV. For the band that doesn't do music videos or live albums, it was also their first televised appearance as a group.
In 2002 Boston's 'Corporate Rock' was issued and included the Dahme-penned tune 'With You.'

She prepared for the negative feedback she expected would be thrust upon her as a new member of the classic band, as well as being its first female performer.

'I was anticipating the worst,' she says, 'But all I got was the best. Every night I'm grateful. I always say a prayer to do my best. And every time I step on stage and the curtain goes up and there's Tom (Scholz) and Brad (Delp) and all the guys, I'm just very thankful.'

Dahme continues to write, record and sell her own songs as an independent musician, and her personal life is busy as well with two young children. Her son just celebrated his eighth birthday and her daughter, a 'surprise baby' she laughs, is 20 months old. She spends most of her time with the children home in Nashville, Tenn., although her son has experienced some of the lifestyle of the loud and famous while spending a week on the tour bus.

'He just thinks it's cool having a rock 'n' roll mom,' Dahme says.
Living in the present, Dahme is also casting at least one eye on the future.

'We spent some time in the studio recording recently. I got to sing, and it's been very good,'
she says, so there is a basic framework for some tracks for a new album.

As for public release of new material, Dahme says she is as hopeful as any fan of the band. 'Just as everyone does, I hope Tom puts out another Boston album - and he will.'

'Personally,' says Dahme, 'I just want to keep getting better musically. And always - I always want to be doing the music.'

Published in The Saratogian, June 25, 2003

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In Bad Company, making some kind of sense

By Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS – In the darkness, everybody has their eyes fixed on the vacant stage, waiting in silence.
Suddenly, there is a blaze of lights and a giant roar goes up that hangs in the air for a moment before being hit by the rolling tidal wave of buzzsawing power chords that goes bursting across the stage.

Suddenly, last Saturday, it all made sense.

Thousands of people attended last weekend's Bad Company/Foreigner concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I was one of them.

I have seen both bands individually – Bad Company shortly after they released their debut album and toured third on a bill behind the Edgar Winter Group and Foghat; And Foreigner when they opened for The Rolling Stones on the “Some Girls” tour - but aside from hearing the odd hit on classic rock radio, the last time I even had a thought for any of these guys was more than 25 years ago.

I don’t think any of the thousands of fans who showed up to see the double bill at SPAC Saturday night cared less. Suddenly, it was the 1970s all over again.

From the moment Paul Rodgers opens his mouth and unleashed his blues-gravely voice, Bad Co. (as some of crowd’s t-shirts hailed them) burned through a set of tunes basted in such a familiarity over so many years that it required every effort to remind yourself that you are in a new millennium.

There were, sing-along choruses to ''Shooting Star,'' time-honored guitar riffs of ''Ready for Love'' and, with ''Run with the Pack,'' a high-clanging volley of keyboard-wrung notes so eerily familiar that it seems that it's being played somewhere deep in your subconscious.

As a memory inducer, classic rock does for the ears what reminiscing about the smell of a backyard barbecue does for your nose, or turning the pages of a long-lost photo album for your head.

Consider that since Bad Company first hit the airwaves, there have been seven different U.S. presidents and we have witnessed the fall of Communism, the rise of MTV, and the advent of compact discs, computer games, video cassette recorders and the Internet. Hell, even the New York Rangers won a Stanley Cup in the interim.

It occurred to me that all the grooving, hand-waving, fist-raising and mouth-moving going on Saturday night at SPAC, was not simply people remembering music of a different time. It was more like the adult stepped outside its aging body to see if it could catch a glimpse of the child long buried within.

Saturday night, they were dancing to the heartbeat of their own lives. They were shadowboxing with ghosts.

published in The Saratogian, June 16, 2002

Utica Joe: Bonamassa hits the road

''Dude! How's it going?''

It's 11 a.m. in the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, and Joe Bonamassa sounds about as happy as any human can be. The 25-year-old Bonamassa is on his way to the Tower City Amphitheater in Cleveland, where road crews, stagehands and audio technicians are at work, preparing for a concert later in the evening. They are moving around equipment, plugging in wires and unlocking black-trap cases stenciled in white with the words ''Bad Company'' and ''Foreigner''
on them.

While many of Bonamassa's 20-something peers are expected to be in attendance at the show, the guitarist's bird's-eye view will be from center stage, in the role of entertainer.
He’s young, but he’s been around.

A musical child prodigy at the age of 4, Bonamassa grew up in Utica. When his father bought a Stevie Ray Vaughan album, young Joe was hooked on the sound for life.

He began touring at the age of 12 and during a show in Rochester, Bonamassa's playing got the attention of that evening's headliner, B.B. King, who invited Bonamossa on stage with him.

''He hasn't even begun to scratch the surface,'' King said.
'He's young, with great ideas - one of a kind - a legend before his time.'' It was the kind of praise that would fill Lucille with jealousy.

He co-wrote songs and played guitar with Bloodline (a band whose members included the respective sons of Robbie Krieger, Miles Davis and Berry Oakley), released a CD in 1995, was signed by legendary music producer Phil Ramone, and hit the road with his own power trio, performing at a number of blues festivals and opening for some of music's biggest names.

''You meet so many great people on the road,'' Bonamassa said. ''George Thorogood was great, and the people from Lynyrd Skynyrd treated us extremely well. They are real fans of what we're doing musically.''

Bonamassa's solo debut, ''A New Day Yesterday,'' was released in 2000 and featured appearances by Leslie West, Rick Derringer and Greg Allman. Then it was back to the stage in 2001 where, by year's end, he had logged more than 100,000 miles on the road.

Bonamassa keeps an online touring diary of many of his performances, but one performance is particularly memorable for him.

''We got a chance to tour with Jethro Tull, and during our show, we do a cover version of their song 'A New Day Yesterday.' Not only did they like our version,'' he said, ''but (Tull guitarist) Martin Barre and some of the other members of the band came up and played it with us.
That was great.''

These days, he's making some new memories.

''Tonight is our first show with Bad Company and Foreigner,'' he said, sharing the stage with his all-time heroes. ''Every time I sing something,'' said Bonamassa, ''I try to sound just like Paul Rodgers.''

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, June 14, 2002

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Meat Loaf: Live at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The last time I saw Meat Loaf onstage, he was singing beneath a sky draped in stars. 'You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth,' he sang, followed by 'All Revved Up With No Place To Go' and 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad,' 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' and 'Bat Out of Hell.'
The stage was in Central Park. I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday. It was the summer of 1978 and Tom Petty was touring with his Heartbreakers. Journey was making its way across the country and the Rolling Stones - despite people saying they were too old to rock 'n' roll - had just released a new album and hit the road for a big stadium tour. Tickets were expensive. It was long ago and it was far away.

At SPAC Monday night, Meat Loaf rattled through a two-hour set, performing his 'Bat' hits along with a half-dozen others that included Leadbelly's 'Black Betty (bam-ba-lam)' and 'Only When I Feel,' a new song that will appear on the 'Bat III' album in September 2006, the singer announced.

It was the second half of the 13-set performance loaded with hits that brought the crowd of 6,000 to its feet.

Dressed in black and flanked by a pair of leather-clad sirens, Meat Loaf fronted a seven-piece band that struck an amicable mix between providing a musical soundtrack for the night as well as becoming part of the theatric performance. Meat Loaf played up the theatrics to the hilt.

'Hey Saratoga, look what I won at the race track Saturday,' he announced, showing off a wad of bills and stalking the stage like a caged tiger. While singing one of his conflicted boy-meets-girl what-do-I-do-now songs, his pocket was 'picked' by one of the female on-stage characters. As far as Meat Loaf songs go, the girl always wins.

He nearly retired from the stage in 2003 after a tour that he admits nearly killed him. And a series of ailments that have plagued him through his career have taken their toll on his voice. His vocal limitations were especially pained on some of the softer ballads, although the combination of his capable band and a crowd happy to sing along added dimension to tunes like 'I'll do Anything For Love (But I won't do that).'

The voice may not be what it once was, but the singer's spirit is willing. The evening's showstopper, 'Bat Out of Hell,' was delivered with a fury that served well its place in rock's classic cannon. And if 'Bat' was a stand-out, Meat Loaf's energized performance of 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' was an exceptional piece of rock 'n' roll theater.

Amazingly, all these years later, the 2005 delivery of the timeless epic may have been the performance of the entire summer, a grand piece of work that pumped full-throttle on all cylinders. It was a staged work by which to measure all others. Throughout the amphitheater and out on the lawn, you could feel it among the crowd. This was one for the ages, one that brought back the original emotion, when it was long ago and it was far away.

On this night, it was glowing on the metal on the edge of the knife. On this night, it was enough.

Thomas Dimopoulos

Published in The Saratogian, Aug. 31, 2005.

Meat Loaf: An Interview

Meat Loaf hates mosquitoes, likes the singer Pink, and says he is superstitious.

'Superstition, yeah. Like, you can't face two mirrors together. That's why barber shops went out of business,' he reasoned during a conference call with journalists in advance of his appearance at SPAC Monday night.

Among Meat Loaf's revelations, the biggest was that work has begun on the third installment of the 'Bat Out of Hell' musical saga. Michael Beinhorn, veteran of albums by Korn and Hole, is producing the work.

'Bat Out of Hell I was produced by Todd Rundgren. He's completely out of his mind. Bat Out of Hell II was produced by Jim Steinman - he is completely insane,' said Meat Loaf about his pair of chart-topping issues, released in 1977 and 1993, respectively. 'Michael Beinhorn is as odd as the other two,' he said.

'Bat Out of Hell III' should be ready for release next summer, Meat Loaf said, adding that the work is still evolving, although he anticipates it to be a little edgier than previous 'Bat' albums.

One of the new tunes, 'Only When I Feel,' will be performed as part of the repertoire at Monday night's concert. His current tour is a jaunt which wasn't even supposed to happen.

'I didn't think I was ever going to do anything again,' said the performer whose illness-plagued 2003 tour earned him a number of hospital visits. There were four different bouts with the flu, intestinal surgery, a heart procedure and an incident that saw him burn his vocal chords during an event at a race track.

'I thought I was going to die,' he said. After taking 2004 off, he came to a new realization: 'I've got to get back on the horse.'

The current Hair of the Dog Tour -- a title inspired by his dog Angus --will stage a classic rock 'n' roll ensemble: 'Two singers, drummer, bass, two guitars, piano and me,' Meat Loaf said. 'It's an aerobic workout, is really what it is. It's my Jane Fonda video.' Pardon?

'Well, I've got a gym in my house,' he pointed out. And what does he do in this gym?

'I look at it. It's very nice,' he laughed. 'I mean I'm not pumping iron by any stretch of the imagination.'

Meat Loaf began his career sharing the stage with classic late 1960s bands like the Stooges, The Who and MC5. And while he mentioned a missed opportunity to appear in the film 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' his role as 'Eddie' in the movie 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' earned him notoriety among movie fans.

'When Tim Curry and myself went down to see the movie at The Waverly (in Manhattan), they wouldn't let us in. I said to them, 'Wait a second, this is Tim Curry -- the star of the movie.' But Tim didn't have his hair, and she goes: 'It doesn't look like him.'

'Then I said, 'and I'm Eddie.' She goes, 'It really doesn't look like you,' because I was wearing a wig in the movie and now, I've got my hair down.'

Eventually, they managed to talk their way in, but not before the ticket taker delivered a final warning. 'She passes by me, leans over and goes: ' you,'' he laughs, mimicking her stern skepticism. 'I was going, like, 'OK, yeah.''

Meat Loaf has had a respect for his audiences ever since.

'That's really what it is - it's about putting blinders on and 'bam!' you just focus in on that. It's like tunnel vision. You have to care more about them than for yourself,' he said. 'And I care more about the audience than anything.'

That includes making sure the live show is filled with a number of crowd-pleasing favorites, some of which go back a generation.

'I think a good song is something that will take you somewhere. When you hear 'Bat Out of Hell,' you're seeing the people. With 'Paradise (by the Dashboard Light),' you're seeing them. And I love those. That's a song to me,' he said.

The show is the thing, he said. Audience satisfaction.

'I hope with what I do they leave happy. I hope they're exhausted, because I am. And I hope that they feel that what they paid for, they got.'

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, Aug. 2005.

Avril Lavigne: Live at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS- She dies her hair blonde and uses an iron to keep it straight. She is engaged to the lead singer from the band Sum 41, and when she heard you can get breast cancer using it, Avril Lavigne stopped wearing deodorant.
These were some of the concerns on the minds of the dedicated followers of all things Avril. If being under this kind of fan-obsessed microscope makes life difficult, Lavigne wasn't showing any sign of it.

The soon to be 21-year-old led her bass-thumping, drum-banging and guitar-wailing ensemble onto the stage at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday night, cranked it up full volume and ripped through the searing opener, spitting out the lyrics:
He was a sk8er boi/ She said 'See ya later boi' /He wasn't good enough for her...

A fiery sparkplug of a performer, Lavigne tore through a brief, but energetic set that delighted a gathering of 8,500. Many of the excitable throng of teenage Avril-ettes came adorned with men's ties over T-shirts and wore black eyeliner. There were a fair amount of equally pleased pre-teens as well, accompanied by their parents old enough to remember when The Ramones, a popular logo on their teens' T-shirts, were an unknown bar band on the Bowery.

From the opening salvo to the crowd-happy sing-along on 'Complicated,' it was a blistering 65-minute set. Lavigne slung on her guitar for '(So much for my) Happy Ending,' played piano on the tune 'Forgotten' - as the stage's deep crimson haze was interspersed by explosive white strobes - and took a turn behind the drum kit for a version of Blur's 'Song 2,' its repetitive chorus of Woo-Hoo ringing through the amphitheater.

Lavigne commanded centerstage, microphone in hand as the crowd alternately pumped their fists and waved their arms to the music, the lawn a swooning sea of neon green glow sticks and eerie orange lights that blinked from atop devil horn head caps.

Lavigne's in-between song banter was brief and to the point, much like the 18-song set itself. 'This song goes out to all the spoiled brats out there,' she announced during one particularly charged moment, introducing 'I Always Get What I Want.'

Most of the material was culled from her two albums, 2002's 'Let Go' and 'Under My Skin,' issued in 2004. She also performed a rendition of the blink-182 song, 'All the Small Things,' which out-muscled the power trio's original version for sheer rock 'n' roll joy.

Onstage, Lavigne's do-it-yourself attitude was power without pretension. Even her at-times, off-key shrill was a welcome act of spontaneity, delivered to the masses in an entertaining manner too often missing in a field dominated by the contrived Britneys and Ashleys of the world.

Her music, from the loudest rockers to the softest of ballads, was diverse as her fashion: from the top of her long blonde mane, to the scuffed bottom of her black combat boots. She wore a bright pink belt wrapped around her frame, the midsection between a pair of camouflage pants and a black mesh jersey with a T-shirt beneath it that sported a skull and cross bones and read: Rock 'n' Roll Outlaw.

Earlier in the evening, Gavin DeGraw performed a set that was as entertaining as say, being stuck in an elevator between floors. With a toothache. In fact, the 28-year-old 'performer' from the Catskills may have set a new level of uber-bland, although his stiff-as-a-corpse parody of soul-stirring classics 'Papa Was a Rolling Stone' and 'Proud Mary' were pretty funny to watch.

It was a parody, right?

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, Aug. 30, 2005.