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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture
 

Rock Around the Clock

By Jeff Wilkin
Thursday, December 13, 2012

There are two nice things about having one of those wide-screen televisions. One, football and baseball games look great.

And two, so do live concerts.

There have been plenty of baseball and football games on the 51-inch Samsung that moved into my headquarters in June. But not all that much music.

That changed Wednesday, when the hyped and heralded “121212: The Concert for Sandy Relief” became one of those big deal, must-watch events. I missed the opening act — the great Bruce Springsteen — but was home in time to watch Roger Waters of Pink Floyd take the stage.

Kind of missed him, too. As I was never a big Pink Floyd fan, I switched over to the second half of the UAlbany-South Carolina State basketball game and listened to the broadcast performance by Rodger Wyland instead.

A bunch of acts on the schedule were not my favorites. Alicia Keys, Chris Martin, Dave Grohl, Billy Joel and Kanye West all have their fans, but I am not in their ranks. I was more interested in bands I followed 40 years ago, and they included the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton from Cream, and The Who.

I was thinking it was going to be a long night. The producers at the Madison Square Concert mega-concert would certainly bring on The Who and the Stones late in the show, and close out with the great McCartney, Sir Paul. But Clapton and the Stones took the stage shortly after Waters, and Clapton did nice work with the old Cream classic “Crossroads.” Acoustic version ... so all the hard edges were gone.

The Stones put in about 15 minutes worth of work and two songs. For me, the guys batted .500 — could have lived without the “You’ve Got Me Rockin’” opener, but was glad the other selection was the more nostalgia-friendly “Jumping Jack Flash.” People never get sick of Mick Jagger singing “Jumping Jack Flash, it’s a gas, gas, gas!”

I figured out the lads’ short set before I read about it in the newspaper. As the Stones are throwing a huge pay-per-view party and concert Saturday, they probably didn’t want to lose prospective customers who might have said, “Ahhhh, we just saw those guys the other night. Let’s put on ‘Sons of Anarchy’ instead.”

I really wanted to see The Who. The group’s only remaining original members — Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend — were in fine form. Had a little trouble with the selection, though. Think when bands that scored their biggest fame during the 1960s, ’70 and ’80s stray too far from familiar fare, it’s just not a satisfying set. At least for me it isn’t.

The Who opened with “Who Are You,” and that was OK. Then it was a rarity, “Bell Boy” from the 1973 “Quadrophenia” album that featured a cameo video performance by late Who drummer Keith Moon. Did nothing for me; thought it looked and sounded clumsy. It was kind of corny.

Really liked “Pinball Wizard,” thought the old “Baba O’Riley” from the “Who’s Next” album was OK. So was “Love Reign O’er Me,” although I have never been crazy about slower-moving Who numbers. A short set from “Tommy,” the always listenable “Listening to You,” closed down The Who.

I think the crowd really would have went nuts had the boys closed with “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Always the solid rocker — maybe Roger can no longer hit the notes of that late, loud scream that precedes the song’s final lyrics. Maybe such a finish would have been too predictable.

I could have hit the sack right then. When Alicia Keys started out, I listened from the kitchen as I did the dishes. When Kanye West came out — a rapper in a skirt! — I hit the basement to iron a couple shirts. I’m hip enough to like a little rap — give me Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg anytime — but the West thing just seemed semi-bizarre.

When Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live showed up with “Drunk Uncle” — gad, I’m glad I no longer watch SNL — I knew it was time to hit the sack. What a lame “comedy” act.

I missed McCartney, and any late night surprises, but so what. I caught some nice stuff, and think The Who was really the best act of the night.

Couldn’t help thinking about how rock ‘n’ roll has aged, and continues to grow older. I read a magazine piece during the 1970s that said Jagger didn’t want to be performing “Satisfaction” at age 40. Well, he’s pushing 70 now, so I guess you can’t always get what you want.

Funny though. Jazz, classical and folks musicians are always allowed by admiring publics to grow into wrinkles and gray hair, but some folks always want to say how old Jagger and Daltry look, how Clapton looks more like a college professor than a hard rocker. At least they can still muster some energy ... Keith Richards looked genuinely glad to be playing the show, and Townsend can still do the guitar windmill like no other! And at least they still have their fans — I’m sure they have their shares of gray and loose skin, too.

That was another thing. A big deal like this would have been a must-see event during my college days of 35 years ago. But for college kids of 2012, getting excited about bands from 1977, would have been like me and my friends popping open beers and cheering for Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and the Pied Pipers. Think we would have switched back to “Charlie’s Angels.”

Anyway, I guess producers weren’t counting on the college crowd. As I remember my days at stately St. Bonaventure University, we were not much on donations ... unless it was a dollar or two for a dormitory keg party.

That’s another story for another day.

 

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