By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Paul McCartney, Monday, November 7, San Jose, California, HP Pavilion. Unlike those surrounding me at concerts who lose themselves completely, I remain Tony LaRussa during a kickass concert. I may nod my head or tap my foot, but I don't dance. I can't afford to. Sure, I've studied McCartney. I've got his Portland setlist memorized. I know that he jammed "Blackbird," and that he's done that song nine times in the past twelve shows. But he didn't play it at Anaheim earlier in the week. What does this mean? If I start dancing, I might miss some subtle cue that will hint at the future direction of the concert. Plus, it's not just about tonight. It's the whole week of rock. If I blow my wad tonight, what shape am I going to be in for Tull?
U2, Wednesday, November 9, Oakland, California, Oakland Arena. I'm a little worried about tonight. Larry Mullen looks to have a bad ankle. Without a steady ankle, rocking the kick-drum over the course of a 22-song set can wear Mullen down. A bum ankle on the drummer means more work for bassist Adam Clayton, who has to pick up the slack. On a song like "(Pride) In the Name of Love," bass drives Bono to take it higher. You need bass. The kicker? Clayton cut his thumb yesterday drunken car-door slam so he's going to have a hard time pounding the B-note. What's "Pride" without a heavy B? How does this affect Bono? What about the Edge?
Def Leppard and Bryan Adams, Thursday, November 10, Sacramento, California, Arco Arena. Song position. People ignore it, but I say you can't. Def Leppard played "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" in the eighth position tonight. That was odd. What's Joe Elliott up to? 78 percent of the time, Leppard follows "Heartbreak" with "Pour Some Sugar on Me." Pay attention to those numbers. You have to know, for example, that 97 percent of the time Journey follows "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" with "City of the Angels." The numbers are higher for Queen and "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions." I don't want to miss "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
The problem? I shotgunned three beers in the parking lot, and that was an hour and 23 minutes ago. I have no idea when that song's going to come now. I will need to piss in eight minutes, potentially during my favorite Leppard song. Based on percentages and experience I'm better able to predict outcome, and thus better able to know the best time to urinate. Unless it's a Springsteen concert. Then all bets are off.
Jethro Tull, Friday, November 11, Oakland, California, Paramount Theatre. Is there a more beautiful picture in all of rock & roll than flutist Ian Anderson, posing in a one-legged, foot-on-calf stand while tearing it up on the flute? The flute: In most hands, it's a utility instrument. In Anderson's hands, it's a mighty piece of steel. Know what it is? Foot position. Without a sturdy center, he's falling straight over. Fingers can't fly if he's unbalanced. Before Jimmy Page takes the violin bow to the Les Paul, he better have a consistent stance.
The Moody Blues, Sunday, November 13, Oakland, California, Paramount Theatre. Concert number five. I'm as nauseated as I've ever been. I have a terrible headache. My head is pounding. I feel like throwing up, and I'm having trouble swallowing. And the beauty of it is, you want to feel like this every day. After doing this for three decades, I'm starting to understand aspects of the music that once baffled me like how many minutes to take between second and third encores for maximum Bic lighter-age, or where to position the keyboardist onstage in relation to the bassist and drummer. Tonight, I took some excellent LSD during "Nights in White Satin" because I wanted to peak during "Ride My See-Saw," and they always play that six songs fifty-four minutes later. I know these things. I predict outcomes based on past performance. Still, the magic remains at the center of it all. Four guys rocking. Each working in relation to the others. A machine. A unit. Beautiful. Just beautiful rock & roll.