Having declared my hate for obvious, punny headlines and ledes, I’m gonna skip trying to come up with a clever title for this.
I wasn’t going to write anything about last night’s free concert featuring Badfinger at the Levitt Pavilion in Bethlehem. But I think now I will, if for no other reason than to help me remember it.
Some bullet points, then:
– Pretty good show; I’d give it a solid B-plus.
– Veteran Joey Molland and his new mates played the five big hits commonly associated with Badfinger*, as well as a bunch of deep cuts that weren’t insanely memorable but weren’t embarrassing either.
*In order of appearance, they were “Baby Blue” (they opened with it); “Come And Get It;” “Day After Day;” “Without You” and “No Matter What” (the main set closer).
– I’m fairly certain Molland didn’t sing lead on any of the band’s original big hits. (The late Pete Ham, who wrote most of them, also sang lead on most of them.)
Thankfully, Molland has a strong enough voice to do the job capably. Rarely if at all did I think, “Hey, that’s not the same guy.”
– As part of his between-song banter, Molland playfully gave someone in the audience the bird. The frontman of Badfinger giving someone the (bad) finger would have made a great photo; alas, I missed it.
– At another point, referencing the chain restaurant next door to Levitt Pavilion, Molland declared in his Liverpudlian accent: “We’re all goin’ to Pairkins later.”
I wondered if anyone in the audience decided to follow the band over there and buy them dinner, or pester them with questions about what George Harrison was really like.
My money’s on the guy I spotted wearing the “Badfinger 1990 World Tour” T-shirt. Heck, for that kind of long-term loyalty, I think maybe Molland and company should buy him a short stack.
– Molland handed some of the deep cuts over to keyboardist Steve Wozny and bass player Mark Healey to sing. Not sure if that was to save his voice, or to preserve the image of a collaborative band.
– On some of the songs sung by Healey, Molland sang backing vocals standing off to one side of the mic, not directly behind it.
That raised thoughts of his deceased bandmates more than any other part of the show. It looked for a moment like Molland was leaving space on the other side of the mic in case Tom Evans should decide to drop by.
(The truth, I’m sure, is less romantic. I’m guessing that maybe you sing backup vocals into the side of the mic because it won’t pick you up as strongly, and there’s less of a chance you’ll overpower the lead singer. Or, maybe Molland was trying to maintain eye contact with Healey. Those are just guesses; I have certainly never been employed to sing.)
– They drew what I thought was a surprisingly good crowd, filling up the lawn.
I had sorta thought that only a few middle-aged, nerdy pop obsessives (my kind of people) would show up. Badfinger’s fame was relatively short-lived, after all, and this version of the band has only one original member.
But I guess there are still a lot of people who remember Badfinger’s hits fondly, or who dug the use of “Baby Blue” in the final episode of “Breaking Bad” and decided it was worth seeing the band behind the song.
This show was also part of a summer-long series of free concerts, and there may be people who turn out every Saturday night just to see what’s cracking. Which, now that I think of it, is not the worst idea in the world.
– “No Matter What” is a terrific song, and for some reason I felt particularly gladdened to hear it played by one of its original performers — more so than any of the other hits of the night.
Some shows have one or two songs that stand above the rest and remind you why you went. “No Matter What” was my got-what-I-came-for moment — which was convenient, as it was the last song of the main set, and thus allowed me to skip the encore.
(I overheard a little bit of the encore on my way out. Left to his own devices, Molland seems to prefer straight-ahead Chuck Berry-derived rock to crisp British-style pop, and this was more of the former. It might have been hot but, again, I’d got what I came for.)
– I also used the voice-memo function on my iPhone 4S to record about a minute’s worth of “No Matter What,” just because I was there and I could.
Without any frills — no external mic, no mic stand, just held at one’s waist — those things make surprisingly listenable live recordings. Not pro-quality, of course, but better and crisper than a lot of bootlegs I’ve heard in my time.
I’m not going to make a habit out of surreptitiously taping live shows; it doesn’t seem right.
But if I were a performing artist, I would hate the iPhone.
It’s already impossible to make a living selling studio recordings. Now, every single person in the crowd has the wherewithal to take the show home with them, and it’s virtually impossible to stop.