Monday, July 18, 2022

Howard Jones, Midge Ure, Getting Older, WLIR and the Concert Industry

I went to see Howard Jones and Midge Ure at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts last night and a good time was had by all. I’d previously seen Howard Jones’s “acoustic trio” perform at Sony Hall in New York City back in February, so I already knew that he puts on a good show. He also strikes me as a genuinely nice person. (In fact, all the people I’ve seen in concert strike me as nice people. Maybe that’s part of their success?)

Anyway, I was looking forward to this “full concert” experience (as opposed to the “acoustic trio,” which nevertheless was able to produce a great sound) and Jones did not disappoint. Mostly.

He did perform a remixed version of “The One Who Loves You,” which was a bit of a disappointment for me, as I’d been looking forward to hearing it since February. (He didn’t perform it in his acoustic show.) I know artists need to keep things interesting for themselves as well as their audience, but I’ve listened to the original version a million times and was quite satisfied with it. (You may have noticed that I’m a bit of a control freak.) Fortunately, the hits were all there and the audience sang along.

The real surprise for me this time was Midge Ure, whom I never thought I’d see in concert ever, as I was convinced he was a studio creation, as was the stereotype about many ‘80s bands. (See my review of the Tears for Fears concert at Jones Beach.) Imagine my surprise when I saw that he could actually play guitar! And despite looking quite a bit older than his Ultravox days (I know, I shouldn’t talk), his voice was still perfect! In addition to playing several of his Ultravox hits, he really blew me away when he played Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” which he co-wrote.

It’s interesting that Jones decided to play Long Island and not New York City on this tour and I’m wondering why. I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that WLIR, the former Long Island radio station (it’s now available online) was responsible (along with KROQ in Los Angeles) for breaking many New Wave bands in America in the ’80s. But I’m wondering if part of it doesn’t have to do with the concert business itself.

The reason I mention this is because, after I saw The Psychedelic Furs at Pier 17 on Friday (see my review), I checked Ticketmaster's website to see how much tickets would be for Blondie and Elvis Costello, who are also playing there. What I found was what was being referred to as “verified resale” tickets, which basically amounts to legalized scalping. While these tickets normally sell for $49.50, the cheapest ticket for Blondie was $114 and the cheapest ticket for Elvis Costello was $225. I would have happily paid $49.50 to see them, but since I’ve already seen both of them, there’s no way I was going to pay those outrageous prices.

A large chunk of the concert industry is controlled by one company, Live Nation Entertainment, which consists of Live Nation, which promotes concerts, and Ticketmaster, which sells tickets. That’s what’s known as a vertically integrated monopoly, and it’s supposed to be illegal. (The only thing they don’t own in this arrangement is the concert venues themselves.)

So while it may seem like I’ve been seeing a lot of concerts lately (and I have), it doesn’t look like I’ll be seeing many more—unless the tickets are more reasonably priced.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Psychedelic Furs and X

I went to see The Psychedelic Furs again at Pier 17 last night (with X opening) and, I’m happy to report, they were MUCH BETTER than their show at the Apollo two weeks ago! They cleared up the sound problem on “The Ghost in You” and the missing xylophone on “Love My Way” didn’t bother me as much. (They duplicated the xylophone part on keyboards, and the keyboard and drum parts were spot on this time.)

Opening for the Furs was X. They played a combination of—what would you call their music? Rockabilly? Surf rock? Tex-Mex? Anyway, they rocked, and their guitarist, Billy Zoom, was a virtuoso on the order of Chris Spedding (whom I saw play with Robert Gordon at Coney Island Baby a few years ago).

Also, the venue, the roof of Pier 17 (which I’ve never been to before) is a great place to see a concert, with views of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan and—especially good for these Covid pandemic times—outdoors.

Friday, July 1, 2022

The Psychedelic Furs and Tears For Fears

I recently had the chance to see two bands on my bucket list: The Psychedelic Furs at the Apollo Theater and Tears for Fears at the Jones Beach Theater. (At my age, my bucket list consists of bands to see before they die.)

I purchased my tickets for The Furs almost a year ago and their concert was postponed twice, so I was a little bit concerned before I saw them. I’m happy to say that Richard Butler can still kick ass. (Butler strikes me as a cross between David Bowie and Johnny Rotten: a crooner with a punk attitude.) I was mostly pleasantly surprised, but I had two minor disappointments. I’d been looking forward to hearing them play “Love My Way,” but when they played it, it was sort of anti-climactic. The distinctive xylophone part that opens the song was missing, replaced by a keyboard line (How do you play that song without a xylophone?!!!) and the keyboard and drum parts that have been tattooed on my brain were also gone. There was also some kind of sound problem during “The Ghost in You.” I’m not sure if Butler couldn’t hear himself (he kept touching his earpiece, as if he was saying “What the fuck?”) or he was singing to a backing track, but it sounded like two different vocals, and one of them was out of tune. At this point, “The Psychedelic Furs” has several new members, but their drummer, Zack Alford, also kicked ass--this is a rock and roll band! I also liked the song “No One,” from their new album, Made of Rain. Why isn’t WDRE playing it?

Tears For Fears is a different kind of band, but I was also pleasantly surprised. A lot of ‘80s bands have a reputation for being “hair bands” or “pretty boys,” but Tears For Fears are real musicians. They were also backed up by an excellent background singer, Carina Round, who provided great vocals on songs like “Woman in Chains” and “Suffer the Children," the latter of which she sang entirely by herself. Even though Roland Orzabal now looks like Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings,” his voice is still in excellent shape. And Curt Smith (who, I have to admit, really is a pretty boy, even now) also sounded great.

So sometimes you can see your heroes--four decades later--and they (mostly) don’t disappoint.