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A post about Badfinger.

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Having declared my hate for obvious, punny headlines and ledes, I’m gonna skip trying to come up with a clever title for this.

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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 areĀ  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.

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– “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.

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Bethlehem rock city.

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The salaryman went out and saw himself some live music tonight, from a most unexpected source.

In the past few years, part of the old Bethlehem Steel plant in south Bethlehem has been revamped into a performing arts complex with several stages, a cafe, and sundry other new-urban tweaks.

At least one of the stages — the one I visited tonight, Levitt Pavilion — backs directly up to the rusty tangle of the Steel’s old industrial complex.

It’s a wild view; several artists who have played in Bethlehem have tweeted pictures of the stage, with a note to the effect of, “Isn’t this the coolest stage you’ve ever seen?”

Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks.

 

An attempted panoramic view of the site, with Levitt Pavilion at far left. You’ll probably have to click to enlarge this for a better view.

I went to see a free show featuring Shonen Knife, the long-running all-female Japanese punk-pop trio.

I have no special fondness for Shonen Knife. But I remember them knocking around 20 years ago when I was in college — I even played one of their songs on one of the two college-radio shows I ever DJ’d.

I figured if they were still out there working at it, they were a cause I could support. Plus, it was free.

Guitarist and singer Naoko Yamano.

They played for 70 minutes or so, and the music was about what you’d expect — big and bouncy and simple and slabby and candy-colored and fun.

There were songs about banana chips, and songs about eating barbecue, and songs about rubber bands, and a song called “Osaka Rock City.” Oh, and a surprisingly charming cover of the Carpenters’ “Top Of The World” to encore.

Are you having a good time, Bethlehem?

The Ramones, of course, were a major influence on Shonen Knife, who covered “Rockaway Beach” at one point in the show. And as I listened, I couldn’t help but think back to the one time I saw the Ramones.

It was the spring of 1994. I was an exchange student in Australia, and the band played Sydney as part of an alternative festival tour called the Big Day Out.

The Ramones played closer to the end of the day than the beginning. And they sounded like a jet taking off, only without the bass frequencies. It was so painful that I had to retreat to the back of the rugby oval, or whatever the hell the outdoor venue was, and sit in a seat at the rear just to escape the murderous treble.

At Levitt Pavilion the sound was perfect, not overwhelming in the least, no matter how close I got. The music was fun and the setting was beautiful; I could easily spend a full day at the arts complex, walking from stage to stage and listening to different bands.

As one gets older and fatter and greyer, it is easy to romanticize how much fun the old times were. But I am reassured to know I am capable of having a better time than I did back then, and there can still be plenty of pleasant evenings of live music if I only go find them.

Oh, yeah — before I snap out of the reverie, I’ll mention one other flashback to my yout’.

Before Shonen Knife performed, a local band called Taking Tomorrow played on a small stage across the street. They’re either high school students or recent graduates. And at first they were playing fairly current stuff — Franz Ferdinand covers, things like that.

And then they burst into back-to-back Hendrix covers — “Purple Haze” followed by “Voodoo Chile.”

I’m pretty sure I played at least one of those songs with my own high school band, a quarter-century ago.

I guess it’s a tribute to Hendrix’s chops and charisma that — even after the coming of grunge and post-grunge and punk-pop and ska and God knows what else — high school kids with guitars are still throttling his music. (That’s a little unkind; these kids were quite good.)

I suppose that as long as there are guitars and basements and teenagers, there will be “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile.”

Taking Tomorrow.