Black Sabbath Live & The Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse

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There’s never a better feeling than waking up in the morning with your ears ringing after a great, great concert. I could do without the headache from mixing beer and bourbon but we take the bad with the good in life. I saw Black Sabbath last night at Kansas City’s Sprint Center (pictured above by yours truly) and I can only describe it this way: Black Sabbath rained fire on Kansas City last night. The show took me back to high school… when a concert like this rolled through town it’s all anybody was talking about.

About a month ago, my good pal SB (name concealed to hide the guilty) asked me if I wanted to see Sabbath. The Rock Chick gave me a flat out “no” which I must admit surprised me. I even felt myself vacillate a little bit. When it came to Sabbath I was more of a Dio-era fan than Ozzy-led Sabbath fan, which I know is blasphemy. Sure, I own ‘Paranoid’ on vinyl but that’s only a sliver of their vast output. Luckily, about two years ago, I started purchasing their catalog, album by album. I was inspired by their late career gem, ’13’ which was produced by the intrepid Rick Rubin. That guy can coax the best out of any band/artist he’s working with. Don’t believe me? Just listen to what he did with Mick Jagger on ‘Wandering Spirit’. But when SB asked me if I wanted to check this band out, I had to ask, “Are you sure?” Sabbath isn’t a band that had “hits” in the conventional sense. They were hard core metal. Who could we get to go with us? SB smiled, “don’t worry, I have some friends in Salina who would love to go.”

Around 6 last night SB and I jumped in the Uber (don’t drink and drive kids) and headed down to Kansas City’s famous Drum Room to meet the Salina 4. These guys had driven in that morning from Salina, and from the appearance of things had been drinking since they’d arrived. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but these guys were some of the greatest students of rock and roll I’ve come across. These were some heavy weight rock dudesĀ and I was wondering if I was going to be able to keep up. Within minutes we were discussing the lineup changes in the Scorpions. One of these guys had the temerity to ask me if I liked Thin Lizzy. Who doesn’t like Thin Lizzy? When the subject of my blog came up and the word bourbon was uttered, the next thing I knew I had a tumbler of Four Roses in my hand. If Sabbath wasn’t going to burn KC down the Apocalyptic Four Horsemen of Salina were. I couldn’t help but think, “buckle your seatbelts boys, these cats ain’t takin’ prisoners.”

The warm-up band was a new outfit, Rival Sons, out of California. One of the Four Horsemen assured me that they were “Zeppelin-esque”. He wasn’t lying. Great vocals, very Robert Plant-ish, coupled with some great bluesy rock guitar. I don’t know much about them but I will be perusing their catalog soon. I was surprised but they kept everybody in their seats, something that rarely happens with an opening band.

Finally the lights came down and the power and majesty of Black Sabbath was revealed. They opened with their eponymous song, “Black Sabbath”. Someone, somewhere needs to erect a statue for Tony Iommi. The guy is simply one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever seen live. The solo he played on “War Pigs” would melt the face off even the most ardent rock fan. All night long he filled the hall with loud, thick slabs of metal riffs. I left the show a true believer in Tony Iommi.

The unheralded hero of the night for me was Geezer Butler. I knew he was a good bass player but he shredded last night. His bass guitar was the driving instrument in a number of songs. He plays fucking heavy, heavy bass. His bass solo, before the awesome “N.I.B.” entitled creatively, “Bassically”, was awesome, truly one of the highlights of the show.

I don’t know who the drummer was but he filled in admirably for the MIA Bill Ward. I hate when bands reunite and leave a member or two out (talking to you Eddie Van Halen) but this kid was a great drummer. Ozzy was his usual maniac self, despite putting on a few extra lbs. The way Ozzy lumbers around clapping always calls to mind the actors from “Planet of the Apes”… there something very chimpanzee about his movements. But the Ozzman was in good voice and he did a nice job inciting the crowd with his usual, “Go, fucking, crazy”.

The setlist was pretty amazing as well. It’s as if the band said, fuck the fan expectations, we’re going to play what we want to play. Sure they did “Paranoid”, “War Pigs”, and “Iron Man”, but with a band like Sabbath, after those three well known songs they are literally free to play anything they want. They dug deep into the catalog for “Dirty Women” from ‘Technical Ecstasy’ and it was a true high point in the show, despite having lyrics that could have been written by my pal Matthew when he was 13…but I digress. They played a lot of stuff from their heavily Cream-influenced first album. I was thrilled they played “Into The Void” and “After Forever” from ‘Masters of Reality’ but I was hoping for “Sweet Leaf”… and I think most of the crowd was hoping for that one too, based on the smell of the arena. My only disappointment was the absence of any of the newer material from ’13’, which I’d have loved to hear live… “End of the Beginning” or “God Is Dead?” would have been a great add to the setlist.

After a fantastic version of “Paranoid” SB and I wandered out of the arena, drained. We’d lost the Salina Four Horsemen somewhere in the crazed exodus. Unfortunately SB left his bag of concert t-shirts under his seat, it was just that kinda night. The Sabs giveth, the Sabs taketh away. We were worried about the Salina 4, when I turned to SB and said, “Dude, I know where they are, they’re in the bar at the Drum Room…” And, naturally that’s where we found them with a table full of bourbon. The next thing I knew, I was drinking an Old Fashion. Things were just starting to get out of hand when I realized it was past midnight… as my dad used to say, “Son, nothing good happens after midnight…” Heeding those words, SB and I jumped into another Uber and escaped into the night. I can only surmise what damage the Salina 4 did last night… But I know one thing, and it may sound crazy…. I wanna party with those cowboys again…

 

AC/DC’s Stiff Upper Lip Concert – I Discover I’m Dating The Rock Chick

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I met Rachel (*name changed to protect the innocent) during a long, hot summer. She was beautiful, that much was true, but it took some time for me to discover the person behind the beautiful face. Rachel was a mystery to me. I was in my thirties and single, coasting through life from party to party, bourbon glass secured. At the time my whole vibe was, as Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant sang, “It is the summer of my smiles, flee from me Keepers Of The Gloom,” which really has nothing to do with this story, I just like to prove that I can insert weird rock lyrics into anything I write.

During our first date, Rachel had piqued my interest when she commented on the shitty contemporary music scene. “Too many boy bands out there… Nirvana killed all the bands I loved…What happened to good ol’ fashion rock and roll…” I began to think, to myself, “I may be onto something here.”

Eventually during the course of getting to know each other, she invited me to go to the local music store. Going to the music store was something I always did with my friends. It was a “dude thing.” I had a roommate in college, Drew, and we spent many a wonderful afternoon in Aggieville’s best record store, flipping through stacks of glorious albums. I can almost smell the incense even now. (I still wonder where all the hippies went now that all the record stores are gone.) It was like a ritual we had. We’d walk in, rarely speaking to each other, except to point out an exceptional find, make our selections, check out and then only when we got back on the street, share our purchases with the other. If I had known you could get away with taking a chick to the record store I would have started doing it a long time ago. That afternoon with Rachel was eye-opening. I’m not a person who has a lot of restraint in a music store, but every time I hesitated over whether to purchase an album, there was Rachel, standing at my shoulder, prodding me on, “Come on you know you want it, go ahead and get it…” I couldn’t help but wonder if we were still talking about music.

She bought a stack of albums that day. They should have charged her by the pound. It was a great, varied selection of music. Amongst all the classic bands I liked, she had some newer music and music I wasn’t familiar with. She turned me onto The Cult, Green Day and Social Distortion that day. I couldn’t help but notice, tucked away in the stack was AC/DC’s then current new album, “Stiff Upper Lip”. I chuckled because I abandoned AC/DC after “For Those About to Rock”. I wrote them off as a band who’d hit the jackpot with “Back In Black”, an album I bought on vinyl the week it came out, and they just gave up. Sure, I went back and bought the Bon Scott-era classics like, “Dirty Deeds,” “High Voltage,” and the lost gem “Powerage” but they hadn’t done anything good in years. I barely knew this woman so I wasn’t about to give her a hard time.

We went back to her apartment, which I had not yet been fortunate enough to visit. Rachel had a daughter and she was very protective as good mothers are. And let’s face it, I was pretty sketchy in those days. 30’s, never married… Who could blame her. Up until our “record store day”, Rachel had always lived at an “undisclosed location”. To my, at the time chagrin, the first album she put on, while she cooked an outstanding dinner, was “Stiff Upper Lip”. I was amazed at what I heard. I hadn’t realized it but around the time of “Razor’s Edge” AC/DC had started to care again. They went through a bit of a renaissance that continues today. “Stiff Upper Lip” was a kick ass album. After dinner and a lot of wine, I found myself putting that album back on and dancing around the apartment with Rachel. Well, it was more staggering around while air-guitaring, but I’ll call it dancing.

As the evening wound down I found myself inviting Rachel to go to the upcoming AC/DC concert in support of “Stiff Upper Lip”. It was a full month out, so this was dicey. I usually avoided inviting women to concerts. I’ve had a few break-ups that go: “It’s not you, it’s me…”, “Are we still going to the Stones?”, “Uh, no…” Awkward. If I was going to take this woman to AC/DC I was gambling that this thing was going to last that long. The wine and rock and roll swept me away and I figured, what the hell…

The day of the show, we hung out at Rachel’s now disclosed location, er I mean, apartment. The pool was right behind her apartment and we laid out all day, prepping for the show with Absolut Citron and lemonade. It was a glorious late summer day. We met some friends of mine, another couple, and headed down to old Kemper Arena for the show. AC/DC killed that night. I’d seen them on the “Ballbreaker” tour and they were good but that night they killed. Brian Johnson came out during the opening, swinging from a rope tied to a giant bell, “Hells Bells”! At one point, Angus came out to an elevated stage at the back of the floor and melted everyone in the arena’s face off with one of the greatest guitar solos I’ve ever witnessed personally.

I had forgotten the primal effect AC/DC’s music had on women. There were several female fans who were gladly removing their shirt and letting their “freak flag fly” so to speak. To quote comic Steve Martin, “I must have seen 57 tits that night.” I couldn’t help but turn to Rachel with one raised eye-brow wondering if she was going to follow suit. She clearly read my mind and said, smiling, “Never gonna happen, Slick.” Oh, well… dare to dream I always say. It was a glorious evening, even though Rachel kept her shirt on. She was singing along, arms raised in the air. It was at that moment I realized I wasn’t just dating a “rock chick”, I was dating The Rock Chick, and that is a very, very good thing. I had been searching for a woman who liked music as much as me my whole life. I couldn’t help but think, “I may be onto something here…”

After the show, Rachel and my buddy helped direct us out of the crazy traffic. It’s always good to have a couple of Germans with you, highly organized people. I’m Italian, I’m a Lover not a Planner. As we finally drifted into the traffic flow I noticed we were behind a limousine. Without notice, a naked woman burst through the sun roof. I could hear the AC/DC playing from the limo through my open window. Again I found myself thinking, “We must explore this effect AC/DC’s music produces in women… if we could bottle this…” But, I digress.

When we got back to her apartment, where we were having a celebratory nightcap, Rachel turned on the local rock radio station. They were doing a concert “playback” and playing exclusively AC/DC music. After a few selections, Rachel began to complain that they never play “Who Made Who”. “Call the radio station and make a request.” I hadn’t called a radio station since I was a child. To my surprise, she got through. I quickly whispered, “Tell him you’re naked…that’ll work.” It wasn’t a complete lie, she had somehow removed all her clothing without me seeing anything and slipped into the AC/DC concert t-shirt I bought for myself, which I was quickly realizing that my ownership claim had expired on, somewhere around the time the bra dropped to the floor. She told the DJ she was naked, and faster than I could laugh, the current song cut off and he put her on live…”I have a Rachel here who is naked and wants to request a song….” Needless to say, “Who Made Who” was on the airwaves in short order. I think I fell in love, just a little bit, at that very moment.

The evening continued to rage on until, at one point, wildly dancing, while I watched from the bed (her stereo was fortunately in her bedroom), Rachel’s hair flew up in the air and suddenly I realized her feet were sailing past her head. I couldn’t help but think, “how do you pull off that David Lee Roth jump without falling…” Unfortunately Rachel had slipped on one of her pumps that she’d casually kicked off early and she crashed to floor with a resounding thud. Everything went quiet… I crept to the end of the bed and slowly peeked over the edge of the footboard and found she was lying on her back laughing hysterically. Hot chicks don’t usually react that nonchalantly to falling… but there was Rachel, in what was formerly my AC/DC t-shirt, laughing. I couldn’t help but think again, “I may be onto something here…”