Neil Diamond

Eine Kleine Music Thoughts

I’ve had a few random music thoughts of late. None really deserving of a post in its own right. Maybe worth a tweet, but who wants to read tweets spread over multiple days with even less continuity than usual? So maybe I’ll just throw the whole damned hodgepodge into a post.

To wit:

Neil Diamond

Did you know Neil Diamond is fun to listen to? I seemed to have forgotten.

I rarely seek him out. I never wake up in a Neil Diamond kinda mood. If I’m asking Alexa, my robot overlord, to shuffle songs by a certain artist, it ain’t gonna be the Diam-ster. 

Does he go by the Diam-ster? He totally should. I’m trademarking that bad boy right now. Neil, have your lawyers call my lawyers. Not that I have lawyers. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand how trademarks work.

The reason I don’t go out of my way to hear me some Neil is because his songs are mostly similar to each other. If you’ve heard one, you’ve sated that Diamond Itch (ooh, Trademark!). As I’ve mentioned before, my family loves Billy Joel Radio. With Billy Joel, you’ve got song variety and some great stories about what’s going on, both lyrically and musically, like why he decided to change into a C-minor for the second verse of that one song. There’s a reason Billy Joel Radio comes back every year. 

By comparison, Neil Diamond Radio lasted a few weeks once and never came back. Because every Neil Diamond song is September Morn, give or take five percent, eternally toeing that same line between soulful ballad and Album-Oriented Rock. Or maybe it’s Adult-Oriented Rock? I can’t tell the difference, but if you wanna sound like a snooty 1970s-era music aficionado, say AOR. It’s the musical equivalent of “I was using it as an adverb,” a rejoinder to which nobody can quibble.

Whereas Billy Joel introduces his songs with stories about threesomes with Christie Brinkley and Elle MacPherson, Neil Diamond’s stories tend more toward, “Well, it was a September morning so I decided to write a song called ‘September Morn.’ It’s in the key of… the same key as all my other songs. Same five notes, too.”

But dammit if I can stop myself from singing along.

The other day, I read a reference to Cracklin’ Rosie, and the song got stuck in my head. Seriously, if you could read that last sentence without singing “Get on board” in your head, then you’re stronger than I. It’s an impossibility. To be fair, I’m not pulling an Eric Cartman needing to sing the rest of the song, but I must finish the lyric. One doesn’t “Cracklin’ Rosie” without a “Get on board.”

Speaking of Eric Cartman, it’s hard to not sing along with Eric Carmen’s All by Myself, too. Can’t believe South Park didn’t go with that option instead of Come Sail Away. Too obvious? Probably a good thing I don’t write for South Park.

Shortly after the Cracklin’ Rosie (get on board) incident, I asked Alexa to play some Neil Diamond, then proceeded to belt out every song she played. 

I read recently that Paul Simon would not be remembered as much as Bob Dylan. My first thought was, “Well, duh, stupid clickbait.” I doubt Paul Simon would place himself in Bob Dylan’s category. Simon is, first and foremost, an entertainer, while Dylan is an icon, bigger than himself. But on the flip side, people don’t still whine to Paul Simon that he switched from acoustic to electric fifty years ago. And Bob Dylan never had Chevy Chase in any of his videos.

Neil Diamond is in the Paul Simon category. Not definitive of a genre, not an icon of a generation. Not music I’ll go out of my way to to. But if it’s on, I’m singing along and you better not touch that dial.

Air Supply. 

Most of what I wrote about Neil Diamond goes double for Air Supply. The only thing rarer than me seeking them out is me NOT singing along at the top of my goddamn lungs. And woe to whoever is within the same zip code.

I’ve seen Air Supply in concert three or four times and, let me tell you, they rock. It’s not a a word one normally associates with their sappy love songs, but if you listen in the background of their songs, there’s some solid guitar riffs. In concert, they bring those forward and emphasize the first word in power ballad.

And unlike some of the older acts I’ve seen (cough, cough, Eric Clapton, cough, cough), they still seem to enjoy touring. Even if they have to amend that lyric from Making Love Out of Nothing at All to “And I can make all the [state fairs] rock!”

Unlike Neil Diamond, I’m not surprised at my closet appreciation for Air Supply. When they come on the radio, I’m like, “Heck yeah, Air Supply!” instead of, “Oh hey, Neil Diamond?” Part of that dichotomy stems from the necessity to stand by your fandom. One doesn’t run into too many people arguing that Neil Diamond isn’t a legitimate musician. But say you’re an Air Supply fan and you’re encountering some raised eyebrows. Don’t let them cow you!

Ironically, I encounter Air Supply songs more often than Neil Diamond songs. Perhaps it’s my choice of radio station. While I’m only likely to encounter the latter if I tune in for the seventh-inning stretch of a Red Sox game, the former get heavy rotation on the SiriusXM Yacht Rock station.

I’ve blogged before about the amorphous blob that the “Yacht Rock” moniker is growing into. It’s supposed to reflect a certain carefree attitude, foolish pursuits of whimsical love, and perhaps a wee bit of drinking oneself into oblivion. Michael McDonald croons, “I keep forgetting we’re not in love anymore,” while the lead singer of the Doobie Brothers opines, “What a fool believes he sees, the wise man has the power to reason away.” Not sure who that guy is. Turns out his name is Michael McDonald. Wonder if they’re related.

Another big time Yacht Rocker is Kenny Loggins of This Is It and Danny’s Song fame, not to be confused with the King of the 1980s soundtracks, confusingly named Kenny Loggins. No way those two cats are the same. 

Or Kenny Rodgers, who was also known for both soft rock ballads and soundtracks, but definitely isn’t Yacht Rock. Unless you look at Lady a certain way. Islands in the Stream, too, which sounds sacrilegious because how can Dolly Parton be Yacht Rock until you realize that Barbara fucking Streisand gets the nod for her duet with Andy Gibb.

If the first rule of Fight Club is “never talk about Fight Club,” then the first rule of Yacht Rock is “is it Yacht Rock?”

And Air Supply isn’t Yacht Rock. Let me get that out of the way up front. They are straight-up, unabashed love songs. There is virtually no planet on which they should be considered otherwise.

Unless that planet is SiriusXM’s Yacht Rock station, cause let me tell you, they play Air Supply all the fucking time. 

Every single time, I say, “This isn’t Yacht Rock.” Then I sing along at the top of my lungs like it’s September Morn.

Yacht Rock Radio has quite a bit of this “Yacht Rock adjacent” music. What started as a distinct style and theme has morphed into “any soft rock from the late 1970s and early 1980s.” Or, in the case of Loggins and Messina, as early as 1971.

As with the Yacht Rock cover band I watched, at least when they’re playing non-Yacht Rock, they do a good job of playing stuff that anyone who tuned in for Yacht Rock won’t mind hearing. Like Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat. Seriously, what the fuck is that song? It’s like a genre unto itself. But it’s kinda fun to listen to. Quirky.

So keep playing Air Supply, SiriusXM. I’ll judge you, but then I’ll be anxiously listening for the next one.

WKRP in Cincinnati. 

While I’m on the topic of Yacht Rock, here’s another song that gets heavy rotation on the SiriusXM station.

It feels weird that a TV theme song gets the Yacht Rock designation, but if any one deserves it, this one might be it.

I take that back. Believe It or Not, the theme song from “The Greatest American Hero” is yachtier, but unfortunately the powers that be refuse to admit that. I’ve never once heard it on the rotation and, in case it isn’t obvious by now, I’ve got a lot of “Time Spent Listening.” What’s even more annoying is that one of their bumpers references it. The smooth, deep-voiced guy makes some asinine comment, says “Believe it or not,” and they cue up the refrain from a song they don’t fucking play on the station! What the hell? 

But if they’re not playing the quintessential Yacht Rock TV Theme, they’ve got a decent second-place replacement. 

Here’s the weird thing about WKRP in Cincinnati. Were you aware there’s more than one verse?

It’s not uncommon for some TV Themes to have extended cuts that become hits on their own. In the 1990s, the theme songs from both “Friends” and “Party of Five” made their way up various charts. Those songs, however, didn’t really make reference to the show, so it makes sense that I’ll Be There For You and Closer to Free might have extra verses. The verse that played during the opening credits sounded like a verse, or perhaps a chorus, not a song in its entirety. Similar things could be said about 1980s stalwarts like the aforementioned Believe It or Not, as well as Thank You for Being a Friend from that show about the four Miami sexpot lesbians. If the theme song started, “Whoa, those golden girls with their silver curls and their golden showers,” I wouldn’t expect to hear it on 80s on 8.

WKRP in Cincinnati, on the other hand, fits more in line with the 1970s trends of catering a theme song to the specific story of the TV Show. Nobody was running out to buy Brady Bunch or Love Boat on 45. The refrain “I’m on WKRP in Cincinnati” isn’t quite so ubiquitous as “Thank you for being a friend.” But props to the guy who was tasked with writing a TV theme song for not letting it stop there. He let the Yacht Rock flow and wrote a second damn verse.

The thing that sticks out when I hear the song is neither its relative yachtiness nor its success at incorporating the letters WKRP into a rhyming scheme. It’s the fact that the best line, a slice of lyrical that ties together the whole song, DOESN’T appear in the first verse, and therefore, on the very opening credits that necessitated the song in the first place.

From the “public” verse (“Baby, if you’ve ever wondered…”), you probably know that the song is a letter to a former love by someone settling down from a transient lifestyle. Somehow he decided a podunk radio station in southern Ohio was a good place to plant roots. Clearly he didn’t know that terrestrial radio was in its waning days of independence where wacky DJs like Dr. Johnny Fever could get away with shenanigans before going on to substitute teach a class of nerds.

The second verse continues in the same vein. “Heading up that highway, leaving you behind, hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Broke my heart in two, but Baby, pay no mind…” Thne comes the beautiful coda: “The price of finding me was losing you.”

Damn dude. Doesn’t really fit with a turkey drop, but hauntingly profound, nonetheless. 

Maybe don’t bury that on the B Side of all B Sides?

Barry Manilow and Phil Collins.

I didn’t start out this post intending to bring these two in, but in so many ways, they mirror my earlier topics.

Barry Manilow? Like Air Supply, ya gotta be unabashed in your appreciation. As with those two Aussies who seem to be singing their love toward each other, Barry’s lyrics are mushy as shit. Hence many a fan closeting their appreciation.

But musically, he’s solid. Predictable, but solid. It didn’t get called a “Barry Manilow key change” for nothing. The chord-progression equivalent of Spinal Tap’s “going to 11.” 

One cannot merely hum along with Barry. One must belt!

On a desert island with a gun to my head? I’d probably take Barry over Air Supply, based solely on the breadth of his catalog. Air Supply’s got, like, ten songs that I know all the words to. With Manilow, it’s closer to thirty. And Air Supply ain’t got nothin’ on par with Copacabana.

Which brings us full circle back to Phil Collins. I’ve got four of his albums, six if you count Genesis. Using the same metric, I’ve seen him twice or three times in concert. There’ve been a few times I’ve heard an unknown song and said, “That’s Phil Collins on drums,” and each time I was proven correct. Like Neil Diamond, you simply cannot argue with the quality of his work. Whether it’s his haunting early stuff from “Face Value,” the happy-go-lucky mid-eighties hits from “No Jacket Required,” or his supercilious wagging-of-finger songs from “But Seriously,” he’s consistently solid.

But like Neil Diamond, it’s easy to forget. His holier-than-thou attitude might be what sours me toward him. He kinds seems like a jerk. A tool. Both of them do. I feel like if SiriusXM tried a Phil Collins radio, his song introductions would be along the line of, “I wrote this song because I’m a good musician. I don’t care if you like it or not.”

But then there’s his remake of You Can’t Hurry Love. 

And what about those duets? Philip Bailey is usually painted as the talented one in Easy Lover, but if it was only Philip Bailey, it wouldn’t have been a hit. And don’t let amateurs butchering it at karaoke sour you on Separate Lives. If Endless Love hasn’t been banned from karaoke bars, then the ballad from “White Nights” has to be allowed, as well. 

To be honest, Phil Collins is one of the few singers I can’t karaoke. He’s a skosh to high for me, but not high enough to falsetto or belt. It’s painful. Bon Jovi’s in the same range. Every single other singer I’ve karaoked to, I’ve completely nailed. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

The easiest guy to karaoke is Neil Diamond and his five-note range. 

But as different as they are at the karaoke bar, Neil and Phil are birds of a feather in terms of listenability. Rarely top of mind. If I want to listen to them, you’ll get an eyeroll and a begrudging “I guess.”

But if you turn one of their songs on, you better keep it there. Maybe even repeat it more than once. Because dammit if they’re not good. 

I just can’t seem to remember that.

Seriously, go listen to Sussudio. Just TRY turn it off mid-song. You can’t, can you?

If you can, you’re a monster! Leave your name and I’ll report you to the authorities.

Your penance will be Forever in Blue Jeans.

Wombat’s Annual Concert Review

I’m starting this year with a slightly different retrospective. I have no friggin’ clue what the hell I did over the past twelve months or what I would like to do for the next twelve. I have a three-year old daughter at home, and both her long-term memory and planning are definitely contagious. Also, since I stopped writing for a large portion 2017 (see above: three-year old), there’s no better time to post about what I did last summer. I’m not likely to remember these things much longer.

Wait, was I saying something?

Anyway, last summer, I saw three more old-dude concerts: Mumford and Sons in June, Blues Traveler in July, and Neil Diamond in August. I know technically Mumford and Sons aren’t old dudes, but most of their fans are.

Each act was one I had seen in concert before, so it allows me to put them into a little perspective.

Mumford and Sons: This was my second viewing of Mumford. If you like their music, you should see them in concert. There always seems to be a divide between how people want concerts to sound. Some people want the songs to sound exactly like they do on the album, so they can sing along. Others figure they can listen to the album whenever they want and, for the price of a concert ticket, they want the songs to be distinctively live.

Mumford and Sons seems to split the difference. The first time I saw them, my wife asked what they were like. I said, “They sound exactly like they do on the album, only moreso.” She didn’t understand how that could be, so this time, I took her. After that show, I asked her what she thought. She said, “They sound exactly like they do on the album, only moreso.”

Every harmony, every chord, every mandolin solo, is as close an approximation of the recorded versions as you will find. You can sing along, if you want. Each note will begin exactly where it is supposed to. A couple might go on a skosh longer, but it shouldn’t be hard to figure out which ones.

I sang along at parts. How can you NOT join in with thousands of people singing “I really fucked it up this time”?

But really, you don’t want to sing along too much, because you’ll miss the “moreso.”

There are a few things that define Mumford and Sons. The emotion and the drive of their music. I don’t mean the emotion of their lyrics (see below: Blues Traveler). In fact, I have to ignore the very obvious born-again lyrics to “I Will Wait” every time I belt along at the top of my lungs.

But I have to belt it, all the same, because of the emotion of the music. It feels like it’s at a fast tempo, but it’s really not. Maybe mandolins can be strummed faster than guitars? I don’t know. Speaking of things I don’t know, is there a difference between a banjo and a mandolin or is it just based on the genre, like a violin and a fiddle?

Anyway, I have always found Mumford’s music invigorating. Even some of their slower songs seem to push forward rather than lay back. I wasn’t a fan of “Wilder Mind” when it came out, because I worried they were becoming Coldplay, but after a few listens, I realized that there was still a lot going on throughout that album.

All of what makes Mumford is on display when they’re in concert. It’s louder, obviously, but same as with tempo, I don’t think volume alone accounts for their draw. And seeing Marcus Mumford sing the lyrics, which whether I agree with them or not, are very personal to him, adds an extra layer of emotion. I don’t know how he has the voice to sing like that night after night.

Like on the album, but moreso.

I have two slight issues with my two Mumford and Sons concerts. The first time, they played a bunch of songs that they were working on for a future album. I liked them, but they were nowhere to be found when I saw them eight months later. I hope those songs, and a forthcoming album, will be appearing soon.

My other issue is the song “Winter Winds.” It is my favorite Mumford and Sons song. They have not played it either time. A quick perusal of setlists shows that they do not play it very often. Marcus, if you’re reading this, put that bad boy into the rotation.

The venue we saw Mumford and Sons at was pretty cool. It was at “The Joint” (gosh, I wonder what that name is hinting at?), a venue inside the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. Fun place, with only a couple of problems for bands with aging fans. It’s general admission, so we all had to stand in line or else we’d have to stand at the back. My wife and I arrived at the casino more than two hours before the concert started. We were going to grab a bite to eat and maybe gamble and drink a bit, but thought we would check the line first, just to be sure.

Holy shit, the line stretched for fifteen miles! Okay, maybe not that long, but in all honesty, the end of the line was in the parking garage. Meaning outside. In Vegas. In June. Yikes. Extra trooper points for my wife, though, who stood there for a half-hour holding our spot while I went in search of the elusive beer.

When they finally let us into the venue, not only was it general admission, but it was standing room only. Twenty years ago, that would’ve had mosh pit written all over it. But this was Mumford and Sons.I’m 43 and I probably lowered the average age by a year or two. So it was basically just a bunch of old people standing around for an hour.

Then for another hour during the absolute douchebag of an opening act. Seriously, he was not talented. And he was kind of an asshole in between songs. At one point he said he was from New York City and there was a smattering of boos. He seemed shocked.

“Who the hell would boo New York City?”

Umm, everybody who isn’t from New York City, dude.

“You guys are just jealous.”

And THAT’S why we all hate douchebags from New York.

But the venue was actually nice. Accoustics were good and you could get as close to the band as you wanted, body space notwithstanding. And I was even able to get a little bit of booze, too.

Holy shit, did I just pay $48 for a margarita and a Jack & Coke?

Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond is also an act I’ve seen once before. Not two years in a row, like Mumford and Sons. I think the first time I saw old Neil, Mumford was still just a son.

My first Neil Diamond concert was a bit of an aberration. I had always wanted to see him, but the price point was too high. Then the city of Stockton was opening a new arena. Stockton is a city in the central valley of California whose main claim to fame is a murder rate that rivals Detroit’s. But they’ve been trying to revitalize the downtown with a brand new minor-league ballpark, single-A but nicer than a number of AAA ballparks I’ve seen, and a 10,000-seat arena for a minor-league hockey team (I’ll be curling there at the end of the month!). Both venues, even a decade later, are beautiful. The downtown still sucks.

When the arena was first opening, they wanted a big name to open it. Last year, when Sacramento opened The  Golden One Center, they brought in Paul McCartney. But Sir Paul wouldn’t be caught dead in Stockton, so their big-namer was Neil Diamond. But there was still a problem, namely that the tickets were still pushing $100 for a city that is notoriously low on the socioeconomic scale. Oh, and it was a septuagenarian playing for a city with less than five percent of its population college-educated.

So Neil Diamond wasn’t selling and the grand opening of the brand new Stockton Arena was barreling toward a quarter-full opening night. The city manager had promised Neil Diamond $1 million to open the arena,  with the city reimbursing whatever ticket sales failed to provide. Except that particular arrangement wasn’t run by the city council. The city manager lost his job over that one. It was bad.

Except it was great for ticket price purposes. With about three days to go until the concert, somebody decided they didn’t want a lackluster opening night, so they lowered prices. All of a sudden it was $25 to see a classic rocker. I was in. Part of the fun of that first concert was trying to deduce who around me had paid full price for the same seats I got for the price of a pizza.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with Neil Diamond that first go around. It felt like he was going through the motions. Maybe he was pissed that half the people in the audience were only seeing him because he cost less than the tank of gas they had used to get to the concert. Maybe he was just performing one of his 150 concerts a year for the 38th year in a row.

The give and take between he and his background singers felt forced and there was virtually no interaction with the audience. His clever lyrics about UB40 stealing “Red, Red Wine”  seemed a little less avant garde twenty years after said cover of said song.

My one takeaway from that first Neil Diamond concert was that he had changed the words of “Desiree” so that the girl was nearly half his age, instead of nearly twice his age. I guess that was funny when he was in his sixties, but now I kinda want him to go back to the original. If, at the age of 77, he’s becoming a man with a 144-year old lady, that’s pretty impressive. Not hot, but impressive!

I’m glad I gave Neil Diamond a second shot, because this year, he put on a really good show. It was at the aforementioned Golden One Center, the new Sacramento arena that Sacramentans said they didn’t need but has already hosted at least ten acts that never would’ve come to Sacramento before. It was Neil Diamond’s 50th anniversary tour, and that might’ve helped him find his love for performing again. Maybe he was able to pick whatever the hell he wanted to sing. He performed a couple of very early songs that have been out of the rotation since “Hot August Nights.”

He played the two sides of the arena off against each other to see who would cheer more, and at one point he turned and sang an entire song directly to the people that were cheering the loudest. I had always heard he was a big showman like this, so maybe I had just seen him on a bad night before. Maybe it was all the fault of those assholes who thought he was only worth a $25 ticket.

Unfortunately, he still played the old, tired, UB40 riff in “Red, Red Wine.” Dude, Neil. It’s been 35 years. Let it go. You don’t reference The Monkees when you sing “I’m a Believer.”

No report back on the age of Desiree this time.

Blues Traveler

I’ve been a huge Blues Traveler for most of my adult life. I listened to them constantly throughout my twenties and a good portion of my thirties. Right up until the time I discovered Mumford and Sons. I joked that if I saw Mumford (my current favorite bad) in June and Traveler (favorite band of my twenties) in July, I couldn’t wait to see the favorite band from my teens in August.

Still waiting for that Beatles reunion tour…

While 2017 marked only my second time seeing Neil Diamond (turned out he was the August concert in question) and Mumford and Sons, I don’t think I could count the number of times I’ve seen Blues Traveler. Probably somewhere between ten and twenty.

I’ve seen Blues Traveler opening for Allman Bros Band in arenas. I’ve camped out to see Blues Traveler playing both days at a weekend festival at the Laguna Seca racetrack. I saw Blues Traveler in the wave pool at the Mandalay Bay, maybe the greatest venue ever.

This time, though, didn’t rank quite as high as a pool in Vegas. It was at the California State Fair. The very same venue that has hosted a Taylor Swift cover band. Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the concerts at the State Fair. I plan which day I’ll go to the Fair based on who’s playing. I’ve seen Huey Lewis, Air Supply, Eddie Money, and Weird Al Yancovic there. It’s a standard stopping spot for bands on the Indian Casino circuit.

To say I was upset Blues Traveler had fallen so far would be inaccurate. It’s not like they were ever filling arenas on their own. Nonetheless, I was a bit dismayed. State Fair means has-been, and I don’t know if Blues Traveler ever-was. With some bands, like Air Supply, I’ve enjoyed their current circuit, because they come through town often and I’ve been able to see them repeatedly at Indian Casinos and State Fairs.

Air Supply, by the way, is a great show. You wouldn’t think they shred on their repertoire of ballads, but they do.

But my worry is that the current trajectory of Blues Traveler’s career will not lead to them playing smaller and smaller venues. My worry is that the State Fair might be signalling the end is near. It’s the canary in the mine. At least when Eddie Money plays the Fair, people see him out of 1980s nostalgia. With Blues Traveler, it’s the same fans it’s always been, there are just fewer of them.

As for the concert, it was pretty lackluster. The State Fair usually is. The acoustics aren’t great and they’re competing with the sounds of cows and the Zipper and  deep-fried vomiting. The band sounded good. They’ve been a remarkably consistent band, with pretty much the same lineup their entire career, except for the guitarist’s younger brother joining when the original bassist died. They play very well together.

I still miss Bobby Sheehan, their orginal bassist, though. They’ve never sounded quite the same. The album that came out after he died, “Bridge,” was one of my favorites, but I feel like they had been sliding before that one and have continued after.

John Popper is one of the most underrated lyricists of the last thirty years:

-Unrequited love? check out  “Alone.” “Hopes can always go up, tears can only fall down.”
-Second guessing love? “Girl Inside My Head.”  “How hard will it be if she is nice to me?How bad will it get if I let her get to know me? Should she see the willing dog or should I be a jungle cat? And most of all, my god, how does she make her eyes do that?
-One love away from figuring it all out? “Conquer Me.” “Conquer me/Figure me out and set me free… It’s not my impatience, or perhaps just there I lied/ It’s just I’m feeling invincible, and it has me terrified.”
-General melancholy? “Sweet Pain.” “Well all of my heroes up and died/ Songs and a dream are left for me/ What did them in, not suicide/ Just a lengthy friendship and a dream of how it could be”
-Friend just died? “Pretty Angry.” “And i want to shout from my guitar/ Come out come out wherever you are/ The joke is over open up your eyes/ A heart like yours it never dies.”
-Pissed off at the world? “Whoops” is a great song about environmental damage. Get it? We’re destroying the world. “Whoops!”

And you don’t have to be in a bad mood. “Optimistic Thought,” “Just For Me,” “Sweet Talking Hippie.” But seriously, who wants happy songs?

Of course, I had to go off on Popper’s lyrics, because most people only want to talk about his harmonica skills. And yes, the notes he can blow on that mouth harp are paralleled by nobody. The speed with which he blows, holy crap. You’ve never heard “Devil Went Down to Georgia” until you’ve heard John Popper play the solo on harmonica.

But here’s where I’m going to buck the trend. Popper can’t blow like he used to. The speed of the notes is still there, and I’m not saying he plays wrong notes or anything. But there used to be an intensity to his play that is lacking now.

And I think I know what it is. I’m a horrible, horrible person for saying this, but ever since he lost weight, his harmonica playing has dropped a bit. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, mind you. If he hadn’t lost his weight, he’d probably be dead by now, and a John Popper blowing at seventy percent is better than a John Popper blowing at zero percent.

See if you agree. After watching the above link, check this one out. Look at that gut. And then listen to that harmonica.

I just wish that science could build him a prosthetic gut that he could only pull out when he’s on a harmonica solo. Is that too much to ask?

The concert was free with admission to the State Fair, but you can pay extra to get reserved seating. We were about eight rows back, which was great for the first hour of the concert. Then three warmed-over hippies came to the seats right in front of us. The bastards then proceeded to stand up and do the hippie sway/twirl dance for the rest of the fucking concert. Whether the band was playing or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I expect doped up-hippies, completely unaware of their surroundings, at a Blues Traveler concert, and these three were clearly solid Blues Traveler fans since they bought their tickets before I bought mine. But hey, hippies, (no, over here hippies. I’m the one talking. Why are you looking at… never mind, just read this when you’re sober. Like, maybe when you wake up at noon, and… what? Pot is for sale in California now? You know what? Never mind).

Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. Hey, hippies, if you’re that big of Blues Traveler fans that you physically cannot sit down, even when Chan Kinchla’s re-tuning his guitar, then where the fuck were you for the first hour of the concert? Shit or get off the pot, hippies.

In this case, I’d have preferred you to get off the pot.