OK, that was kinda awkward

Last year, Glen Campbell’s wife announced that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease…and Glen immediately announced that he was going to give a farewell tour. There were probably several reasons for the announcement. For one thing, Glen probably looked at the diagnosis as the end of his career, and he wanted to hit the road one more time. More likely, not being a major songwriter, he probably also looked at it as one last opportunity to make some cash to take him into retirement.

When the announcement was made, my friend Melodie and I decided that we had to go. Fortunately, we soon found out that we wouldn’t have to travel far…Glen was coming to Bloomington. We got tickets, and anxiously anticipated the show.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After all, Glen had played with some of the best musicians in the business, including what is known as the “wrecking crew,” a group of the hottest LA session musicians who played on everything from Dean Martin tunes to Beach Boys classics to Phil Spector legends. Who would he have with him?

Not long after he took the stage, we found out that the majority of his band were his kids, two sons and a daughter. That was good for Glen. Although he gave a pretty good performance (his guitar playing was still astounding, and his vocals were still pretty good, although he needed help with lyrics from teleprompters), it was easy to tell that Alzheimer’s Disease was already starting to take it’s toll on Glen Campbell. He seemed confused at times, needed a little coaching from kids occasionally, and was obsessed with the sound of his monitors, to the point where you felt a little embarrassed for him at some points.

All that being said, I’m glad I went. The man is a music legend, and opportunities to see a legend don’t come around that often.

Still, it was a little awkward at times. And it made me think of some of the other awkward moments that I’ve experienced from years of concert-going:

Johnny Cash – 1997: It was that year that Cash was diagnosed with Shy-Drager Syndrome, a form of multiple sympton atrophy(look it up). So when it was announced that he was coming to Champaign, I got tickets immediately. Again, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He brought his delightful wife, June Carter, with him, as well as his son and daughter, and overall sounded pretty good. He was coughing a lot, and perhaps was experiencing some weight loss because he kept having to hike his pants up between songs. At one point, after talking with the band, he started a song and stopped it after one verse. He explained to the audience that his throat was hurting, and they thought they could do the song in a lower key, but it didn’t work, so they were going to start it again. At that point, someone in the audience yelled something about him smoking a joint. Cash responded nicely at first, but you could tell it bothered him. Finally Cash said, “Yell something again and I’ll have you thrown out.” Everyone cheered, but it was an awkward moment. All that being said, the toughest part of the evening had to be listening to his son and daughter (hmm, where are they now?).

Greg Kihn – 1985: The Greg Kihn Band, who had success with “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy” had broken up, and Greg was on the road doing a solo tour. He wasn’t exactly playing arenas…he was at the Scottish Rite Temple, which seated about 500 people. My friend, Scott, introduced him onstage, then came up and sat with me. It was obvious that Greg was pretty messed up…slurred speech, hanging on the mike stand, maybe even a bit of drool. Scott confirmed my suspicions. Here was his account: “These guys got into town about lunchtime, and sat at House of Hunan drinking sake all afternoon. Backstage, while going over the set list, he was smoking a joint the size of a Lincoln cigar, then did three quick lines of coke before going onstage. I’m surprised he can even stand.” That kind of summed up Kihn’s solo career, so now he’s doing what every washed-up rock star does…he has a radio show!

Eddie Money – 2011: I did not seek out Eddie Money…he happened to be on a bill with Styx, and I love Styx in concert, so I sat through Money’s set. It was the third time I had seen him, and the funny thing is, I never ever WANTED to see Eddie Money. The first time, I took my girlfriend to see him at the state fair. He was trashed. The second time, the radio station that I worked at brought him in for a show, and I was the stage manager. I thought he was kind of a dick. The 2011 show was awkward from the point of just plain being embarrassed for him. He lumbered around on stage like Lurch from the Addams Family, although I think Ted Cassidy would have sounded better. It kind of hurt to watch it.

Bruce Springsteen – 1996: I have never been much of a Springsteen fan (until recently…I get it now), but always heard that “even if you’re not a fan, you HAVE to see Springsteen in concert!” I’m sure the “Ghost of Tom Joad” tour was not what those diehard fans had in mind, but it was a chance for me to finally see the Boss, so I went. It was just Bruce and his acoustic. I usually like intimate shows like this, but I slept through most of this one. It just plain sucked. Fans were yelling things from the audience, hoping to hear an acoustic version of a Springsteen classic, but those yells were totally ignored by Springsteen, except occasionally when he would mutter “eh, shut-up” to the yellers. He was actually booed. Again, I wasn’t a big fan at the time, but I couldn’t believe that an artist of his stature was being booed.

Ever experienced an awkward moment at a concert? Please relate. I’m sure I’ll have more. After all, my buddy John and I have set a goal to see both Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis this year.

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About groovyrick

I live in a small town in Illinois with my wife and three kids. I am a part-time musician, part-time writer, and full-time dreamer.
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16 Responses to OK, that was kinda awkward

  1. MAGGIE says:

    Nice!!

    My husband and I drove across the country to New York to see Queen when they toured with Paul Rodgers. He was great, though no Freddie (not that I saw him live, but I have seen several of his legendary performances on video). Queen was outstanding, but during Fat Bottomed Girls, Rodgers kept looking behind him, like he was waiting for Brian May to cue him when the song was over so he could do his song ending rock n roll kick.

    • groovyrick says:

      Wow Maggie, clear to New York? I really thought that Paul Rodgers with Queen was a bad idea (like you, I’ve only seen Freddie on video). Maybe I still have bad memories from seeing Rodgers with The Firm in ’85. My buddy and I figured it was going to be the best chance we would ever have to see Jimmy Page. It sucked more than you can imagine…no Free, no Bad Company, no Zep…just Firm. Bleh.

      • MAGGIE says:

        Oh, I was so glad we went! It was an awesome trip. They played some Bad Company, but I was all, “Move along and get back to Queen!!” But that part was super awkward!

  2. Not that you asked….but I’ll tell you my most disappointing shows…
    I was at the one of the now legendary Pink Floyd “The Wall” shows in LA that were featured in some tribute to them recently. Worst show I ever saw. And I’m a big fan. Roger Waters, who can’t sing and can’t dance, stood out front while a big white faux brick wall was built ever so slowly that would eventually conceal the rest of the band. We just watched Waters standing there singing the worst lyrics from the worst album the band ever did all by his lonesome. Yuk.

    The Bob Dylan show in Bloomington was awful. He should have just let Costello go all night long.

    I saw the Eddie Money show you spoke of and love your description, though he was just bad, not lousy in my view. Styx really surprised me – professional and fun loving. Very enjoyable.

    I was at the solo Springsteen show and liked it very much. I missed the band, thought the noisy crowd was rude, and as a solid fan really appreciated the solo versions, especially of Born In The USA. But….you know….I’m a fan. This brings to mind our Brian Wilson tussles and where you see him as one of the Gods of pop I see him as an overblown doo-wopper. Okay, he’s more than that, but he’s no Springsteen. 🙂

    • groovyrick says:

      I’ll agree with the Dylan comment, especially since Elvis was AWESOME that night. And we can agree on Styx. And I also agree with your Brian Wilson comment to an extent…best discussed over beers.

  3. mike white says:

    early 70’s chuck berry plays the decatur armory.uses pork’s band ‘the light brigade’ as his band.curtis hightman is pork’s guitar player is on stage with chuck but chuck makes him keep his twin reverb on stand-by.chuck’s the only guitar player anyone is going to hear.so at the end of the set they play reelin’ and rockin’.chuck gives everybody on stage a stop time solo. including this poor soul who has to reach in the back of his twin -switch from stand-by to on before he can play his unexpected solo.curtis should have administered a 355 stereo enema on chuck right there.

    • groovyrick says:

      I have heard NIGHTMARE stories about playing with Chuck Berry. I think it was Springsteen who talked about backing him up in the late 60s…he asked what songs they were doing, and Chuck merely replied “We’re doing Chuck Berry songs.” No set list, no plan, just whatever Chuck felt like doing, and you had to pick up on it quickly. BUT it’s gotta be a cool calling card saying “Yeah, I’ve played with Chuck Berry and lived to tell about it!”

  4. Dave Park says:

    Great post Rick..I was at a couple of the same shows, and concur with your descriptions! How about Heart at Horton Field House in the early 80’s, with Ann Wilson fighting constantly on stage during many a song with the lead guitarist…he just ignored her, which I think just pissed her off more.

    Another Horton show, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, also in the early 80’s, where Carl Palmer fell off the stage and was taken to Brokaw Hospital…I think he cracked a rib.

    • groovyrick says:

      I heard about the Heart show, Dave, but wasn’t there. Was that the one that Mellencamp opened for? Probably the most uncomfortable moment at ISU (other than Springsteen) was watching a band named Tonio K open for the Kinks…they told the audience that their usual lead singer was not with them…no one noticed and no one cared.

      • Dave P says:

        Yes, it was the one with Mellencamp…good memory…It was SO uncomfortable and almost ruined the show seeing Ann Wilson go off…You remember, not too many shows in the ole Horton Field House…maybe ’cause of acoustics? or lack thereof?

        I remember Tonio K! Never saw them though…

  5. Melinda says:

    A couple of years ago we saw Bob Dylan at the Collesium…maybe you wre there too!?! We went prmarily because it was Dylan; a bonus was that Elvis Costello was opening for him. Costello was great; really great. But Dylan should have sat his set out and let Costello play all night. We were ready to go after a couple songs, but waited it out, only because it was Dylan.

  6. I once saw Richie Havens in a beer garden in a bar in Peoria that I can’t remember the name of. It was in Pioneer Park, probably around 1987. I went with a friend and we got so high after eating a brick of hash that we had to leave because I thought he was staring at me and it was so uncomfortable. There was only about 20 people in the crowd and it was really embarrassing. Being the asshole I am, I positioned my car so the headlights would hit him through the fence in the beer garden. I started flashing my lights on him and yelled out, “Hey Richie, ‘Here Comes The Sun!'” The entire crowd was screaming at us and we were so high we couldn’t stop laughing. Ah, memories!

  7. Greg Liestman says:

    Hey Rick! Just discovered your blog through Facebook and I’m really enjoying it. I was at the Springsteen show you were referring to at Braden Auditorium. They weren’t booing, they were saying “Bruuuuuuuuuuce.” 🙂 I personally loved that show, as I did all the shows I saw on that tour (think I saw 7.) But I would agree that the Tom Joad tour wasn’t the best tour to catch if you weren’t a hardcore fan. I hope you’ve been able to see him with the E Street Band. It truly is a magical experience, but I love the solo thing too. Then again, with 96 Springsteen shows under my belt, I may be a little biased. 🙂 I was also at the Johnny Cash show you mentioned, definitely awkward when Cash yelled back at the guy. Johnny was definitely struggling that night, and I believe it was one of the final shows he ever played…For me, the most awkward moment at a show I’ve ever witnessed was at a George Jones show at House of Blues in Chicago. This was in probably 1998 or so. George seemed out of it all night (big surprise) and when he went to introduce the members of his band, he couldn’t remember some of their names. The bass player went and tried to whisper in George’s ear to help him out, but it only made it worse. To this day, that George Jones show was the worst I’ve ever seen. Truly painful.

  8. Greg Liestman says:

    Oh wait, I just remembered another awkward, and could have been tragic moment at a concert. It was at ISU’s Redbird Arena. I believe it was billed as The World Series of Rock. The bill consisted of Whitesnake, Great White, and Bad English. There might have been one more band too, I can’t remember. Originally it was supposed to be at Hancock Stadium, but due to the low ticket sales, it was moved indoors to Redbird Arena. While Great White was playing, somehow, some idiot climbed up into the lighting rig high above the stage, and fell from the top of the lighting rig down onto the stage in the middle of a song. I’ll never forget seeing that body falling and hitting the stage. Needless to say the band stopped playing, and emergency personnel rushed to take the guy away. He didn’t die or anything, but obviously, he was severely injured. It was several minutes before the show started back up, and of course it put quite a damper on the rest of the show.

    • groovyrick says:

      Thanks for checking this out, Greg! I know that you’ve seen a ton of shows, and some we’ve seen together. Hope you’ll be a frequent visitor! BTW, I wasn’t at the show, but remember that incident at Redbird…crazy.

  9. Jim says:

    I was at that show. It was May of 1990. The other band that was scheduled to play was Havana Black. They cancelled for some reason though. I was in the 3rd row, center stage for Great White’s set. First off, it wasn’t a guy. It was a 16 year old girl. Second, she wasn’t in the lighting rig. She climbed out onto one of the speakers that was suspended about 40 feet above the stage. Finally, she didn’t fall. She jumped. When she first got out on the speaker, the band stopped playing the song they were in the middle of. The crowd in the arena started chanting “Jump”, “Jump”, “Jump”. At that point, Great White (at least the guitarist) broke into Jump by Van Halen. While that was happening, someone came on stage and started ushering the band off. As they were leaving the stage, the girl jumped. Several people tried to catch her (including the keyboard player as he was walking off stage). They were unsuccessful however and she hit a metal grate that was on the front of the stage. I agree with Greg though, it was pretty traumatizing seeing her fall toward the stage. The only thing I really remember from the show after that was seeing Steve Vai play his triple neck heart guitar with Whitesnake. That was definitely the weirdest concert I ever attended.

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