This spring is shaping up to be a busy one for a guy who loves live entertainment. In April, the return of Bryan Ferry, Audra McDonald as Billie Holliday on Broadway, Ledisi and Chic (!) in May, then June tops it off with Barry Gibb's first ever US solo tour, followed by James Taylor, both at the Hollywood Bowl.
I've been going to concerts since my mother took me to my maiden voyage in 1972 at the 10,000 seat Public Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. I was scared to death, never having been in a venue anywhere near that size, and not knowing what to expect. When the lights went down and The Dramatics took the stage, I was immediately hooked. After an exciting 30 minute set, they made way for The Stylistics, who, while not as polished and flashy as the opening act, had an impressive lead tenor, Russell Thompkins, jr., whose floating falsetto on 'People Make the World Go 'Round', 'Stop, Look, Listen' and other hits, resulted in a satisfying experience.
Joe Simon followed with his then current hit, 'Drowning In the Sea of Love'. The headliners, however, showed that they were in that spot for a reason. Riding the top of the R&B and Pop charts that week with the classic 'I'll Take You There', The Staple Singers brought the church, soul and funk to Cleveland that night. Women climbed onstage to hug and kiss senior citizen, vocalist and lead guitarist Roebuck 'Pops' Staple, while his daughter Mavis demonstrated that she possessed one of most stirring voices in all of popular music. The Staple Singers took me 'there'.
Ever since then, going to concerts has been in my blood. There's something about the immediacy, spontaneity and connection between artist and audience that can be like church to me when it's coming from a real place. Now, hundreds of shows later, I still get excited like a kid when walking through the doors of a venue, bristling with anticipation of (hopefully) an evening that I'll never forget.
In my early concert going days, it was easy to take a professional camera to a venue and shoot a concert without fear of reprisal. These days, only point and shoots are allowed in most venues without incident (unless you're at a Prince concert). However, I have a couple of good point and shoot cameras that have served me well over the last few years.
As I got fired up for the shows to come, I went through my photo archives and am pleased to offer a few shots that I have taken from unforgettable shows. I hope you find them interesting.