Santana Scores, Rod Stewart Not So Much in Arena Concert

You could say we’re in a 4th generation of rock concerts. In the early 60s, multiple groups would appear together on one bill, each playing a few of their hits. By the late 60s, popular bands like The Rolling Stones would headline a show, with 2 or more opening acts playing shorter sets for exposure. As the century ended, huge acts like U2 or Bruce Springsteen would play for 3 or more hours without an opening act. In recent years, with money tight and concert costs climbing, there has been a new development – 2 acts who once filled arenas as headliners sharing a co-billed tour.

This year, for example, we have Def Leopard and Kiss, Motley Crue and Alice Cooper, Jeff Beck and Z. Z. Top, and Pat Benatar and Cher.

Last night, a co-billed tour of Carlos Santana and Rod Stewart performed at the Verizon Center as part of their tour labeled The Voice, The Guitar, The Songs

Santana explained his reasoning behind the pairing:

“People ask me, ‘Carlos, what do you and brother Rod have in common?” I say well, we both listened to Sam Cooke. We both listened to Otis Redding. We both listened to Etta James. We both listened to Nina Simone. Now, we both play black music for white people. And we both like to drive the girls crazy.”

Santana, backed by a tight band including another guitar player, a keyboard player, a bass player, a drummer, 2 percussionists, 2 horn players, and 2 vocalists, then proceeded to deliver a blistering 90-minute set of tunes spanning his 45-year career.

For long-time fans, there was “Black Magic Woman” segueing into “Oye Coma Va.: There was “Jin-go-la-ba” from his first album. Complete with the No Rain chant and clips from Woodstock, there was the encore, the iconic “Soul Sacrifice.”

There were also songs for newer fans like “Maria Maria” and “Smooth.”

There were also several welcome surprises including a rousing version of “Tequilla” by the Champs, a guest appearance by guitar great Jimmy Herring on on the blues tune “If Anyone Can” and interspersed snippets of such rock classics as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (the Beatles), “Third Stone from the Sun” (Jimi Hendrix), “Low Rider” (War), and even “The Pink Panther Theme” (Henry Mancini).

But while Santana played as powerfully as ever, the years appear not to have been as kind to Stewart, who delivered an hour-and-45-minute set more Vegas smooth than Woodstock raw. Even his great hit “Maggie May” sounded perfunctory and he spent more times kicking soccer balls to the crowd during “Hot Legs” than he did singing.

In fact, the high point of the set was Santana’s re-emergence to join Stewart on a cover of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” After the pair traded vocal lines and guitar licks, Stewart told the crowd “We’ve been on this tour for 2 months and every night Carlos comes out and plays something completely different. That inspires me to sing the song differently.”

Hopefully, there may be more such inspiring help on the way.  Prior to playing “Stay with Me,” Stewart told the crowd, “A long time ago, I played in a band called The Faces. We keep talking about getting back together and we will do it. But we better hurry.”

I hope the Faces do reunite. Or Stewart and Jeff Beck can patch up differences and tour as The Jeff Beck Group. Because until that version of “Rod the Mod” returns I think I’ve seen enough of the “Vegas Review Rod.”

So as someone who has seen you in concert more than 10 times since 1968, I’m urging you – please make those calls right away. I want my old Rod Stewart back. If Carlos, and Mick, and Paul can do it, you can, too.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It
More Santana/Stewart from The Prices Do DC
Apparently, the Santana over Stewart DC night was typical of the tour. Here is a review from Jon Bream in The Minneapolis Star Tribune that, with a few exceptions,  could just have easily described last night’s Washington show.

Rediscovering Toby Beau and “My Angel Baby” While Cruising the Hawaiian Islands

Toby Beau — On and off stage they are Balde Silva and Rennetta Dennett Silva

In 1978, I was playing in a South Jersey band called Time Peace. We were performing classic rock songs, as well as some radio hits of the time. One song that was always well received was “My Angel Baby,” a No. 1 hit by a band called Toby Beau.

Now I hadn’t thought about “My Angel Baby” or Toby Beau for 40 years. But that changed earlier this month when my wife and I boarded The Pride of America for a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands and discovered that Toby Beau was going to be performing two shows on the ship. 

In its original format, Toby Beau was a five-piece band out of southern Texas. Today, it’s a duo consisting of Balde Silva, the original singer and co-writer of “My Angel Baby,” and his wife Rennetta Dennet Silva, who has been with Silva since the ‘70s.

During about five hours of informal chatting and formal interviewing over three days, Balde, sometimes joined by the striking and incredibly friendly Rennetta, told me the 40-year story of Toby Beau.

Like so many music lovers who later became musicians, Balde vividly recalls the moment when he realized music could be more than his passion; he wanted it to be his life’s work. “It was seeing the Doors on Ed Sullivan”, Balde says. “You could hear that Vox organ and that guitar. And then there was Jim Morrison.”

Around that time, a couple of Balde’s older cousins formed a rock band and young Balde was given an important job. One of the guitar chords could short out when it was put in an amp, so as the band rehearsed, Balde would hold the chord steady so it wouldn’t wiggle. As the band played, he would sing along. Soon, he found himself fronting the band as lead vocalist.

“The singer they had wasn’t very good and I could sing pretty well. So we switched positions. He started holding the chord and I became the lead singer,” Balde says, chuckling as he recalled his inauspicious introduction to the rock band world.

After playing with several configurations of South Texas musicians, Balde found himself with the four other musicians who would become the first version of Toby Beau. The band was named after one of the last shrimp boats docked in the Gulf Coast community of Port Isabel, Texas.

The group started out performing covers in clubs all over Texas, but eventually began writing songs of their own. One of those songs was “My Angel Baby,” co-written by Balde and now-deceased guitarist and band member Danny McKenna. Soon, the group signed a major three-record deal with RCA and found they were going to be produced by KISS producer Sean Delaney.

Balde said the band’s rise was rapid and eye-opening. “One day we were playing in these greasy bars in San Antonio and the next day we were recording in New York with all these big bands,” Balde noted.

Propelled by the band’s first single “My Angel Baby,” Toby Beau was soon getting airplay all over the country and Canada. The single, with its updated 1950s feel and harmonica solo reminiscent of something like the Rascals might have recorded in their heyday, spent 13 weeks climbing the Billboard charts. It reached No. 1 on the Easy Listening charts, while rising to No. 13 on the pop charts. “My Angel Baby” quickly earned gold for receiving more than a million radio plays.

Suddenly, the band found itself touring with many of the biggest acts of the ‘70s such as the Doobie Brothers, Bob Seger, the Steve Miller Band, Steely Dan, and ZZ Top, all of whom are now enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“That was a wild time,” Rennetta says. “Wild, but fun while you were young”.

But when the band began recording its second album, problems developed. They tried recording in New York City, Miami, and Nashville, but were unable to recapture the magic of “My Angel Baby”. When finally released, the second album did include a cover of “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” written by John D. Loudermilk, who also composed the classic “Tobacco Road”. “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” had previously been the number 6 pop hit for the Casinos in 1967 and a No. 1 on the country charts for Eddy Arnold in 1968. The 1979 version by Toby Beau only reached 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and 7 on the Adult Contemporary List.

By the completion of that album, all four of Balde’s fellow band members had left the group. However, he decided to record the third album for RCA on his own, a move which allowed him to retain the rights to use the name Toby Beau.

After that album, Balde and Renetta, accompanied by various musicians, toured as Toby Beau, playing smaller music venues and festivals, clubs, and bars. As the 21 Century dawned, the two – now just a duo – found themselves also working on cruise ships. After 7 years, Balde and Rennetta wanted to forego cruise performance. However, their agent said they should do one more cruise.

“I heard Rennetta holler in the background, ‘See if we can do something in Hawaii. We’ve never been there’. Well that was 12 years ago and since then we have been right here performing on the ship,” Balde explained.

The Pride of America cruises around Hawaii all 52 weeks of the year, so the Toby Beau duo can book work as much as they want. Currently, their contract specifies that they perform two shows, one on Saturday night and one on Sunday night. That means they have the rest of the cruise to do what they want, which often involves exploring the islands. It also means they can have an almost-regular scheduled. For example, Rennetta apologized for cutting our chat short on Sunday night because she and her husband always make that movie date night while the ship is docked overnight in Kawai.

As for the two shows, one a tribute to the Beatles and the other to the Eagles, are unique. Balde and Rennetta play the performance live, but the drums and other backing instruments have been pre-recorded by Balde for live playback.

Actually, the pre-recordings have a live feel, not like many such accompaniments that sound artificial and machine-like. Balde explained there is a simple reason for that fact. “I guess you heard a few mistakes,” he said. “I was going to take them out, but when I listened to them I thought such things occur in live performances so I left them in,” he said.

To enhance the accuracy of the show, Balde employs some the same guitars that George Harrison, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney used for the Beatles and Glen Fry, Bernie Leadon, Don Felder, and Joe Walsh played for specific Eagles songs.

The show itself is unique for such tribute concerts. Balde has chosen one song from each album of the Beatles and the Eagles that truly captures the sound of the band at the time the LP was released. Balde and Rennetta alternate telling the story of the groups, meaning that their show is not only musically interesting, but a lesson in rock music history and popular culture as well.

From the reaction and applause both nights, the duo’s talents and the shows’ formats are being enthusiastically received by the cruise showroom audiences. One highlight of the Beatles’ night was a show-closing rendition of the classic “Hey Jude,” complete with an audience singalong and in-time, above-the-head hand waving. My personal favorite from the two nights was a spirited “Life in Fast Lane,” while the audience appeared awed at Toby Beau’s close cover version of the Eagles “Hotel California” from the band’s best-selling album by the same name.

The positive reception was demonstrated quite a few times during our interview-chat sessions as cruisers would stop by our table to tell Balde and Rennetta how much they enjoyed the shows and talk music with the pair.

I will be writing much more about Toby Beau in the future (they will play a major role in my third book in what I am calling my Rock of Agers series which looks at how rock & roll evolved into rock, which today continues its popularity as classic rock), but here are the answers to two questions I asked: 

The first – are you disappointed that your hits came early and because of changing conditions in the music industry you haven’t been able to replicate that success?

“No,” Balde answers emphatically. “I’ve always enjoyed live performing more than studio work. I love seeing the fans, watching their reactions, and getting a chance to talk to them. And getting to do it with Rennetta makes it that much better”. 

And the final – Balde, do you have regrets about spending 40 years in the music businesses with all its inherent ups and downs?

“When I was young, all I wanted to do was sing. And that’s all I’ve ever done. I dreamed of being a rock-and-roller and that’s what I became. My advice now to young people is never give up on your dream and always be ready when the dream comes – for it can come out of nowhere so you have to be ready”. 

Encore

            As an author who writes articles and books about classic rock I have the great opportunity to meet many people in the music business. Some are nice. Some are not. Some are normal. Some are not. But few I have are as engaging and friendly as Balde and Rennetta. I think the fact that they have been together for 40+ years in a business where 40 months in the more the average speaks strongly to their dedication and character. In fact, I’m certain that if they lived next door, you would want them for friends. Plus, the three of us could probably talk for years about the highs and lows of the music business, along with stories of all the fascinating people you run into. 

            If you do or don’t recall Toby Beau or “My Angel Baby,”, make yourself a note to check them out if you get a chance. You won’t be disappointed. And, if you want, you can tell them Dave sent you.

Dave Price to Tour To Promote His Classic Rock Book Come Together

If you consider 1965’s “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones as the first two great classic rock singles and the Beatles’ Rubber Soul as the initial classic rock album (which most musicologists do), then that makes the genre 55 years old next year. 

But as 2019’s evidence shows, you can rightfully claim classic rock is barely showing its age for a type of music that, if it were a person, would be eligible for membership in AARP in 2020.

Times for older classic rock artists continue to be productive. For example, three of the top five grossing concert acts this year – Elton John, Metallica, and Fleetwood Mac – perform classic rock. Bruce Springsteen offered 236 solo shows over two years on Broadway, with ticket prices averaging $500 a seat from the box office and more than $1,000 from re-sale. Aerosmith, John Fogerty, Santana, Sting, Rod Stewart, Def Leopard, and Journey all played sold-out residency shows at Las Vegas’ top casinos. The Rolling Stones wrapped up their three-leg, three-year No Filter tour, a series of stadium concerts that attracted 2,290,871 fans and grossed $415.6 million for the band. And the Beatles’ re-release of Abbey Road climbed to #1 on the charts, exactly 50 years after the album first accomplished that feat 50 years ago.

These eye-opening facts evoke two big questions – how did the rock music now deemed classic, which evolved from 1950s rock & roll, become so popular with the Woodstock Generation and why does it continue to thrive despite the fact that most of its first listeners are now in their 50s, 60s, or 70s? 

In a three-book series he jokingly refers to as his Rock of Agers trilogy, Washington DC author and former journalist, educator, and classic rock keyboard player Dave Price explores the history of the music of the generation who came of age in the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s and attempts to explain the music’s popularity then and now.

The first book in the series, Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Young Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation was released in November. 

Come Together begins with the dropping of the first atomic bomb in 1945 and ends with the final notes Jimi Hendrix played on the last day of the historic Woodstock Festival in 1969. The saga is told in six chronological chapters. In the first, you’ll see how a connected series of innovations, influences, and influencers in the late 1940s and early 1950s paved the way for the rise of rock & roll. The second introduces you to some of the most important early performers of this new music. The third allows you to see how the Beatles reshaped rock & roll both on stage and in the studio. The fourth places you in San Francisco in the summer of 1967, where a new youth “hippie” counterculture was being formed around revolutionary ideas about the role of drugs, sex, and rock & roll in American society. The fifth demonstrates how two of the most significant artists of the late 60s – Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones – crafted some additional touches to the type of music that would be encountered at Woodstock. In the 6th chapter, we’ll end our musical journey and join a crowd of 400,000 to vicariously experience the most-noted music festival of all-time at the historic upper New York state farmland where rock & roll emerged as something which now would soon be known simply as rock.

The second volume in the series, What’s That Sound?  80+ Artists Who Defined the Music of the Woodstock Generation, will pick up with Hendrix’s fading final notes and conclude 50 years later at the 50th anniversary commemoration of that 1969 festival, held at the original site. It is scheduled to be published in late 2020.

The third and final “Rock of Agers” book is tentatively titled Long Live Rock: Why Do the Classic Sounds of the Woodstock Generation Continue to Resonate So Loudly Today. It will delineate two connected stories – the various ways the sounds of classic rock are being preserved and passed on to new listeners and how you can experience the entire history of classic rock by sailing on four Woodstock-like music themed cruises. Long Live Rock is planned for a late 2021 released.

Price will begin a four-month tour to promote his new book with an appearance in his former hometown of Bridgeton, New Jersey, where he lived for 59 years. On Saturday, Dec. 7th, he will stage a meet and greet and a book signing at the Bridgeton Free Public Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. He will be donating $1 from the sale of each book to the library.

“The Bridgeton Library is a very special place to me so it’s fitting that I begin there,” Price says. “Libraries in general, and the Bridgton Library in particular, have always served as my secular cathedrals. They truly are amazing places. You can learn just about anything you need to know if you take advantage of all the resources a local library offers”. 

“I’m sure I wouldn’t have been in position to write any book without the enjoyment, elucidation, and enlightenment that I found in all the libraries I have visited over the years,” Price added. “To me, my library card is just as important as my credit card or my driver’s license. I never leave home without it.” 

My First Book Published Today

For my first 64 years on the planet, I never gave any serious thought to writing a book. But in 2017, I discovered the main thing you need for a book – a good idea. Sailing on our first-ever rock cruise, which featured Gregg Allman, I discovered 2,700 rock fans paying at least $2,000 each to hear music that was supposed to be just a passing teenage fad in the mid-1950s. I wondered how exactly did this come to pass.

And now today, 3 years later, my first book — Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Youth Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation — has been published and released.

For now, it is available exclusively at the Politics and Prose book store in Washington, DC. It can also be ordered from the Politics and Prose website. However, the book will be rolling out in other places and as an e-book soon.

Here is the cover.

Bruce Springsteen, Donald Trump, and 2 Competing Views of the American Dream

Last week, American president Donald Trump and American rock icon Bruce Springsteen engaged in a on-line word exchange. Springsteen, a vocal critic of Trump, said “the stewardship of the nation has been thrown away to somebody who doesn’t have a clue as to what that means. And unfortunately, we have somebody who I feel doesn’t have a clue to what it means to be an American”. Springsteen’s remarks came after Trump tweeted that he “didn’t need little Bruce Springsteen and all these people” to draw crowds. Three years ago, I had a chance to attend a Springsteen concert and a Trump rally in Atlanta within 3 days of each. Here is what I wrote then.

How is a Donald Trump political rally like a Bruce Springsteen concert? Let me count the ways.

Before last week, I had never really considered comparing the two. But on Thursday, I attended a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Phillips Arena here in Atlanta with about 20,000 enthusiastic Springsteen fans. Three days later, I was at a Donald Trump for President rally at the World Convention Center just across the street from the Phillips Arena with more than 5,000 rabid Trump followers.

Here’s what I discovered

1. In a post 9/11 America, you have to go through detection screeners when entering a venue to see either Springsteen or Trump.

I passed through the Springsteen screening with no problem, but I was detained by a Secret Service Agent for additional body screening with Trump. Maybe it was because I looked more like a Springsteen supporter than a Trump fan. Or maybe it was just the metal in the belt I was wearing Sunday.

2. Both Springsteen and Trump use music before their shows to set the stage and pump up the crowd’s anticipation and excitement.

Rock stars almost always employ music they admire as pre-concert background. Candidates do the same. Trump claims he personally selects the music played before he takes the stage.  On Sunday, the pre-show playlist leaned heavily on the Rolling Stones (“You Can’s Always Get What You Want,” “Time Is on My Side” etc). The Daily Beast has labeled Trump’s choice “arguably the best, most fantastic, and most eclectic campaign list of the 2016 election”. But there is a problem. Apparently, Trump has not asked the groups including the Stones for permission to use their songs. Interestingly, Springsteen has also been at the center of a political song choice. Ronald Reagan stopped using Springsteen’s anthem “Born in the USA” when he ran for president in the 80s after Springsteen asked him not to use it.

3. Springsteen and Trump are greeted with standing ovations involving thunderous clapping, shouting, and screaming the minute they are seen on stage.

If you’ve ever been to a big concert or packed rally with a popular politician you know the noise level we’re talking about here.

4. Opening questions are often used to get the crowd focused on what’s coming next.

During his Radio Nowhere tour, Springsteen would shout: “Can anybody out there hear me?” For Trump on Sunday it was “Are we going to win Georgia or what?” In both cases, the answer was a roaring “Yes1”

5. New “bits” and old “hits” are mixed into every performance.

On his current tour, Springsteen and the E Street Band are performing their double album The River in its entirety.  Several of the River’s tracks have rarely been performed. However, the 2nd part of the show is given over to more familiar songs such as “Thunder Road,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “Born to Run”.  For Trump on Sunday, the new came from the fact that one day earlier he had convincingly won the South Carolina primary. Here’s what he had to say about that: “We won with women – I love the women. We won with men. I’d rather win with women to be honest with you. We won with evangelicals. Tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people. We won. It was a beautiful day”.

Of course, the candidate interspersed his message with such tried Trump themes as winning (“When I’m President you are going to get so tired of winning”) and losers (“They’re such losers. Just losing all the time”.

6. Fans are adamant about their admiration.

Ed Edwards and his son Matt. Both are 100% for Trump. Wife and daughter-in-law Michelle Nelsonisn’t so certain. She is currently debating between Trump and Marco Rubio. But she does dismiss the 3rd frontrunner for the GOP nomination Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “Ted Cruz is evil,” Michelle says.

Noted rock critic Jon Landau wrote these famous words about Springsteen in 1974: “I have seen rock n’ roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen”. In 2016, 69-year-old Ed Edwards of Fayetteville, Georgia, and his 36-year-old son, Matt, of Acworth have seen the future of the America they want and its name is Donald Trump. The father: “He’s not a politician. We don’t have control of our borders. And if we don’t have control of our borders, we have no country. Our country is going to hell in a hand basket. Donald Trump will change that”. The son: “I don’t think he can be bought. I think he’s our last hope. We’re screwed without him”.

7. Fans not only voice their support, they wear it.

On Thursday, I wore this favorite T-shirt to the Springsteen show.

This is the back of my favorite Trump T-shirt I discovered at his venue.

8. The thematic idea of a river and all it can symbolize ran through both performances.

In his song about loss “The River,” Springsteen sang these lines on Thursday:

Now those memories come back to haunt me

They haunt me like a curse

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true

Or is it something worse

That sends me down to the river

Though I know the river is dry

That sends me down to the river tonight

Or Trump on loss and the American Dream:

I thought to myself

I’m angry

People are angry because they’re tired of being the stupid people.

We have a right to be angry

Because we have been sold down the river.

9. Since both events were live, glitches can, and did, happen.

Springsteen failed severely to hit a note. On the giant monitors above the stage, you could see him chuckling at his failure. For Trump, it was the case of the Day the Lights Went Out in Georgia, which you can see for yourselves by clicking here.

10. Despite the fact that they are incredibly wealthy (Trump aself-professed billionaire, Springsteen a multi-multi millionaire) both superstars have come to stand with and speak for the common working men and women of this land.

Don’t believe me – run a quick check on Springsteen’s song titles or lyrics. For Trump, look at the economic statistics of his most staunch supporters. Or their musical listening favorites.

11. Both are famous enough to have songs written about them.

For Springsteen, it was the Eric Church hit “Springsteen” with lyrics like “When you think about me, do you think about 17? Do you think about my old jeep? Think about the stars in the sky? Funny how a melody sounds like a memory. Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night. Springsteen, Springsteen, woh-oh-oh Springsteen”. It wasn’t played on Thursday. For Trump, it was this unnamed song played by an unknown artist on Sunday with lyrics like “Don’t be a chump, vote for Trump. He’s got the power up in Trump Tower”.

12. Because of their power and success in their respective fields, Springsteen and Trump have both earned the title “The Boss.”

The Boss has been Bruce Springsteen’s nickname since he first began directing bands at the Jersey shore in the 1970s.  For Trump, it’s a sobriquet he was bequeathed when he began building his real estate empire in Manhattan and solidified when he became the host of the hit reality TV show “The Apprentice”. As the Boss, both had to fire people. Springsteen once fired the entire E Street Band to explore a solo career, but thankfully brought them back together again. “You’re fired,” became a Trump catchphrase on “The Apprentice”.  NBC then proceeded to fire Trump himself over derogatory remarks he made about immigrants as a candidate.

 I could go on.  But I think I have established my premise. Now, I’m not saying a Springsteen concert and a Trump political rally are identical. There are obvious differences. But in many ways, Trump and Springsteen are mirror images of one another. The words of Trump and the lyrics of Springsteen may be quite different in tone and text, but they are addressing many of the same issues – loss, economic instability, change and uncertainty, fate and the future.  Both talk about the restoration and reaffirmation of America and the American Dream.

One comes at problems from the right; the other the left. Both, I would argue, claim to want to make America great. Trump would add “again”.  Springsteen might be more comfortable with “truly for the first time”.  Both have expressed ideas how to accomplish that; one through fiery, simplistic oratory, the other through image-enhanced song lyrics. Both want to lead people to their vision of America’s promised land.

Now no offense to Ed, or his son Matt, or the thousands here in Georgia and the millions across the country who are joining them, but I’m much more of a Springsteen guy.

But hey Boss – from one Jersey guy to another – how about it? You and the Donald in a winner-take-all struggle for the direction of the American Dream and the very soul of our country. Now that’s a series of shows between two great showmen that would definitely satisfy my hungry political heart. I know who I would want to win for, in that race, only one candidate was born to run. And his name isn’t Donald Trump.