Show and Tell: Artists’ Favorite Live Shows (Part Three: Porter Jr. to Trucks)
It’s hard to pick just one, but seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta certainly sticks out. When we showed up, they were pulling up in their 15-passenger van, and guys in their 50s, 60s and 70s hopped out of that thing. Just the commitment to what they’re doing was pretty moving. We’re musicians, we travel, we play a lot, and people always whine and complain about the road, but when you see those guys doing it at that age, in that way, it put things into perspective. But then, the magic began the moment they started playing. When they entered the Variety Playhouse in the side door, they were already mid-song, chanting, singing, playing, all the way to the stage, did their show for a few hours, sang and played through the crowd out the side door and that was that. It was a whirl- wind. They certainly made a lasting impression on me.
The Warlocks at Hampton in ‘89. They played two shows that were announced only a week earlier. Tickets went on sale only at the venue. Jerry broke out his new mind-melting MIDI sounds, as well as “Help”> “Slip”> “Franklin’s” and “Dark Star.” I was 19. Good times.
Seeing and hearing The Beatles at Candlestick was a way cool experience. They set up the stage a little out past second base, with the infield clear. The promoters brought in every single piece of PA equipment in the Bay Area, from every PA service around, kludged together the biggest makeshift monstrosity imaginable—some of it just strewn out on the infield grass, but it worked just fine.
I had seen them play a couple of times before at the Cow Palace in SF, but you couldn’t hear anything there but screaming girls. This time was different. The Beatles themselves were playing their new Vox Super Beatle amplifiers, which seem to be a bit of a rodeo for them; after years on a smaller back- line setup, these newer, bigger amplifiers seemed to be getting away from them just a little bit.
That said, the instrumental blend and interplay was pretty spectacular. The vocals were better still. They used no onstage monitors—they hadn’t been invented yet—but their lead vocals and harmonies were wonderful. They did “Yesterday” in a four- part harmony, and it was transcendent. The years of growing up playing together showed through in every song, every note...
Back in the early ‘70s we were in The Apple [New York City] with a night off. Jaimoe and I wanted to go downtown and catch some live music, and on perusing the Voice, we noticed that there was a band featuring John McLaughlin playing. Since we were both very much into Miles’ In a Silent Way, we decided to go. Out came this five-piece band with a drummer playing a four-piece kit with an 18” bass drum and they proceeded to blow like I have never seen music blown in my life. About halfway through the first set, Jaimoe punched me and said, “That’s Billy Cobham.” (We knew him from playing the Fillmore with Dreams [the jazz- rock group from the early ‘70s].) Anyway, we had stumbled into the very first public performance of the Mahavishnu Orchestra playing most, if not all, of the tunes from Inner Mounting Flame. We went on to play several tours with them but that was, by far and away, the best I ever heard them, or anybody else for that matter.