Last Thursday evening I gathered together with 10,000 of my closest friends at the Colonial Life Arena to listen to the last concert by Paul McCartney in the US before his tour departed to Europe. I was not quite sure what to expect. Paul’s performance during Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee on June 4, 2012 left me wondering how much longer he could go on performing as he was struggling a bit with his performance that day.
I needn’t have worried; Paul was on stage for three hours without a break. What’s more, I could not tell for sure if there was an auto-tune device in play. I can normally detect auto-tune artifacts but if there was any pitch correction I did not hear it. He delivered a spot on performance. The pure professionalism, honed over a lifetime of live performances was clearly visible. I think I caught him at the right moment of his career with a robust songbook and a polished performance. Yet, he seemed real and honest as he interacted with the audience, recognizing Columbia and South Carolina. His shout out to Charleston and honoring the Palmetto State’s response to the painful events the week before last was perfect.
It was a bit strange for me to be at a concert where I was not involved with the production somehow. I remember all those “Hoparoonies” back in the day with WCOS; Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, The Tams, Clifford Curry, The Prophets, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs and Peaches and Herb just to name a few. My view of those old concerts was from either the wings of the stage or with the other station disk jockeys behind the headliners doing a terrible Doo–wop routine. At least Herb of Peaches and Herb declared it was terrible; but it must be noted that he did not ask us to leave the stage. Other times, I would be part of the television production team recording the concert for posterity. But for this one, I was up in the nosebleed section, relaxed and enjoying the show as a regular member of the audience. No wonder folks like rock concerts so much.
One of the disadvantages of being in the Deep South, is that we are far off the beaten track of most national tours, so we generally reward an artist who comes to town with big enthusiastic audiences. This was true back in the day as much as it is now. Columbia was on the edge of the “Chitlin’ Circuit” so we made up for it a little with great soul and R&B acts playing at the local venues. These tended to be a little more intimate than the big megastar concerts but the music was great.
This summer, some of my favorite artists from the late 1960s are touring in the Happy Together tour of 2015. The Turtles (Flo and Eddie), Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Grass Roots, The Association, The Buckinghams and The Cowsills are rocking the coasts and the upper part of the US. I keep telling my buddy, Mark Dawson, the lead singer and bass player for the Grass Roots, that there is a big gaping hole in their schedule and that Columbia has some great venues what would make their fans in NC, GA and SC happy, but so far we have not appeared on the schedule. Keep your fingers crossed. It could still happen. In the meantime I am living the tour vicariously via calls and texts with Mark and his Facebook picture posts.
Some of the best concerts in my memory where those put on by local and regional acts; The Ventrelles, The Persians, Mama’s Home Cookin’, The Men of Distinction, The Catalinas and The Swinging Medallions, to name a few from back in the day, to Danielle Howle, Four Way Stop, Johnny Reid and Brent Lundy of today. I know I’m leaving off a bunch of great acts that I’ve seen but there is not enough space to include them all. I do want to mention one regional band in particular, The Sensational Epics. They had some hits on Capital and Cameo Parkway records back in the ‘60s. Although they disbanded in the ‘70s, they reformed back in the early 2000’s and are still going strong. They have graciously allowed me to MC and broadcast several of their concerts and were even crazy enough to allow me to sit in on a concert or two. I will be forever grateful to them for their friendship and all the cherished memories.
I know that once you reach a certain age that it is natural not to want to go out into a crowd and enjoy a great concert the way we used to do. It may not be Monterrey or Woodstock. It may be hot and noisy, but it is alive and refreshing. So go out and support your local band. Oh MY!