Tuesday, November 20, 2018

VetsAid Concert 2018

On Veterans’ Day, Katie and I attended the “VetsAid, The Concert for our Veterans" with Joe Walsh and friends. It was at the Tacoma Dome and Joe’s friends were Don Henley, James Taylor, Chris Stapleton, HIAM and Ringo. 

We haven’t attended many concerts since we’ve gotten older. Generally speaking, they are too loud and too uncomfortable for too long. This one was no exception. We showed up at 4:00 pm for the 6:00 concert and at 11:30 pm, way past bed-time, were sitting in our car in a very slow-moving line of cars trying to get out of the Tacoma Dome parking lot.

We attempted to smuggle in some cheese and crackers, but the security person found the crackers, and unceremoniously had Katie toss them into a large trash can, containing all sorts of other goodies. She did not find our stash of cheese, however. We hadn’t eaten since lunch, so we were left to buy the stadium food.  I supplemented our bag of cheese with a tiny five dollar bag of pretzels and a twelve dollar can of beer. I don’t think the Tacoma Dome people have checked recently to see what the price of food is out on the open market. 

Our seats were on the side and upper level. The Tacoma Dome had just installed new seating. The unmercifully hard bench seats were thankfully gone, replaced by fairly comfortable seats with backs. We had only attended one other concert at the Dome in the nineties, a benefit for the police and firemen.  The two acts were The Lovin' Spoonful, without John Sebastian, and America, without one of them. America was extremely good. The guy who was missing was not missed much, but The Lovin' Spoonful was not the same without John Sebastian.

The VetsAid concert began with Daniel Daymon  and the Puget Sound based Gospel Choir singing a rousing rendition of the National Anthem.
The opening act was HIAM, three sisters from the San Fernando Valley in LA. They were extremely energetic, playing rock/pop that at times verged on heavy metal and incorporating a variety of unusual sounds. They opened their set with Taiko-like drumming. The syncopated beats filled the Dome. I had never heard of them and I don’t think I’ll rush out and buy any of their music, but I was impressed by their musicianship, harmonies and versatility. For three slight young women, they sure made a hell of a lot of noise. Katie and I came prepared with ear plugs, which I should have kept in for the whole concert, but I took them out for James Taylor and forgot to put them back in for Joe Walsh, big mistake. My ears are still ringing.

Drew Carey, host of "The Price is Right," introduced Chris Stapleton.The concert advertising said there would be surprise guests, but Drew was the only one not listed on the playbill. Between acts Drew introduced veterans and veteran family members who have benefitted from the veteran programs.

I had only heard one of Chris’s songs before, “Tennessee Whiskey”, which is actually a cover of a David Allen Coe song. Unbeknownst to me, Chris is a popular country artist and has written over 170 songs with six number one hits on the country music charts. He's won multiple Grammys and Academy of Country Music awards. From our vantage point, way up in the nose-bleed section, he looked like a cross between Leon Russell and Charlie Daniels. But after looking at him on my computer, the resemblance stopped at the facade of long hair, beard and cowboy hat. He is actually better looking than either of the other two guys. Like Waylon's, his music was driven by a strong back beat, but his voice and singing style was a cross between Sam Cooke and John Fogerty. His songs were soulful but country at the same time.

                There was a long intermission, which gave us time to stretch our legs and stand in extremely long bathroom lines. Most of the audience were baby boomers like ourselves, so the lines moved much slower than they used to.

Finally it was time for the acts I was most excited to see, James Taylor, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Ringo. JT sat in a chair for his first three songs,  “Carolina in my Mind”, “Native Son” about a returned Vietnam veteran friend and “Sweet Baby James” which he introduced by saying, “for those of  you who are not sleeping already.” He then played “Fire and Rain”. The song is like 40 years old, yet he sang it with all of the tenderness and nuance the song deserves. How does he do it after all these years? He invited Joe Walsh out to help him with his last number “Steam Roller Blues.” There is no musician who has played as big a part in my life for as long as James, so I was happy to see him doing well and still able to do what he loves and what we love him for. At 70 years old, he’s still got it.

Don Henley opened with “The End of the Innocence” from his solo days. Having Joe Walsh there meant he could pull off some of the Eagles songs like “Life in the Fast Lane”. Henley went back behind the drum kit for “Hotel California”.  When the crowd heard the opening guitar licks everybody cheered.  Joe and another excellent guitar player taking Bob Felder’s part, nailed the harmony guitar solos. Henley also performed the 1985 "Tears for Fears" song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” odd choice, but well done. He ended his set with a moving version of “Desperado”. The Eagles' songs were bitter sweet for me because of the fairly recent, January 2016, death of Glen Frey.
Joe Walsh still plays like a focused maniac. Like the others he played some of his greatest hits,“Rocky Mountain Way” and “Life’s Been Good”, which like JT’s “Fire and Rain” is the song the audience expects at every live event.

Ringo came out for the finale number, "With a Little Help From My Friends" with all the musicians and the audience backing him up. The old Beatles song never sounded more appropriate.

All the performers thanked us veterans for our service and told us it was an honor for them to play for us. I was moved, reminding me of my feelings about the Bob Hope Christmas show in Vietnam.  People who have not been in a war cannot really know what it’s like, but for those of us who have, we deeply appreciate their gratitude and attempts to understand. Joe’s VetsAid concerts have raised over 22 million dollars for veteran programs. It was a great concert despite my ringing ears, the over priced junk food and insufferably long amount of time. Thank you to Joe and friends.