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That 70s music

No, I’m not talking about that disco crap. As much as 70s music is reviled, there was great music coming out then as well (Sturgeon’s Law, as always, applies). I always think about my favorite troika of Rush, Queen and Led Zeppelin putting out great music in the 70s, but there were plenty of other acts I have a great and undying love for. Two of those were Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton, both of whom I got taste of this week.

I’d skipped going out Sunday so I could stay in, marinate and grill some ribs while I finished catching up on TV (I figured out I watched 16 hours during the weekend, including football, but I did skip the commercials from everything except football). I decided 3 shows in 3 days was pushing it as well. I got to bed at a reasonable hour and was up at 6:30 and into work by 8 on Monday morning. Originally I’d thought I had the day off, but we get Veteran’s Day off, not Columbus Day. I’d scheduled a massage but decided not to cancel it since I needed it. Jill warmed some wings for me after I ran out for the massage and I had a quick lunch with her (she did have the day off), then went back to work. We left for Falls Church around 6.

I was looking for a place to eat around the State Theatre and settled on Bangkok Blues, a Thai place that also featured live blues. Jill ordered the pad prig khing (beef sautéed with curry paste and string beans) and I had the “sassy shrimp” (crispy shrimp stir fried with onions and peppers). Mine wasn’t bad, but Jill didn’t like hers, and I had to agree – the meat was way too tough and the beans weren’t cooked enough. We missed the music there, but we had better plans anyway. We got to the State Theatre around 8. Jill proposed getting a drink at a nearby bar, but after seeing the line wrap around the venue, I knew we had to get in soon to get a seat. We got in and headed straight for the balcony, snagging a couple of the last seats in the center. Jill didn’t miss out on her drink, as I went downstairs and snagged us a couple pints of Magic Hat #9. We settled into our seats, and as the 8:30 start time passed, hoped that the show would be close to done when 10:15 arrived and we’d have to leave to get Jill home by 11 (school night, and she was subbing for a friend who was out of town).

I’d always liked Fleetwood Mac, but in recent years I’ve realized that Lindsey Buckingham is my favorite singer and writer from them. I think it started with 1994’s Rare on Air, Volume One, a collection of live tracks from radio station KCRW. Lindsey did a solo “Never Going Back Again” on there that really grabbed me, and I’ve paying close attention to him since. When Fleetwood Mac reunited for the live album and tour in 1997, that was a must see, and an amazing show. We saw them when we went to Vegas in 2003 when they were touring for “Say You Will”, the first Mac album since 1987 with Lindsey. Again a good show, but for both of them I wasn’t anywhere near the front, a disappointment seeing how I love good seats. We actually had great seats for a scheduled stop at Nissan in 2004, but that was cancelled the day of the show when Stevie was having voice troubles and never rescheduled. I’d bought a six pack of concert tickets to get those seats for that show and Rush, and those were pricier seats, but the weasels gave me a sixth of what I paid back (no, I’m not still bitter about that). So when I found out not only would Lindsey Buckingham be coming out with a new solo album, but touring small venues, I knew I’d go if I could. I got psyched last week after buying the new album Under The Skin and hearing his adventurous use of loops (like Howie Day) as most everything was played by him, and the music was good as well – he’s always had a good ear for melody.

The lights went out at 8:45 and the crowd erupted as he came out alone. He played three songs solo: the new “Not Too Late”, “Trouble” (from his first solo album, 1981’s Law and Order – oddly, he never played anything from his last solo album, 1992’s Out Of The Cradle), and a masterful take on Rumours’ “Never Going Back Again”. With the crowd going nuts, he brought on his band (including Brett Tuggle on keys) to tackle another Rumours classic, “Second Hand News”. He slowed it down a bit after that with another new one, “Cast Away Dreams”. The new songs always got an enthusiastic reception (it seemed most of the crowd knew them), but they were softer and slower numbers. “Red Rover” from Say You Will was followed by my favorite new song, “It Was You” (sounded like Fleetwood Mac crossed with Trevor Rabin era Yes). The band left as Lindsey tore into Jill’s favorite Mac song, “Big Love” (from Tango in the Night). The crowd was on their feet as he started into “Go Insane”, from his 1984 solo album of the same name (often played with the Mac), and the band rejoined him on stage.

“Under The Skin” was the last of the new songs performed before he ended the set with Mac classics: “World Turning” and “I’m So Afraid” from Fleetwood Mac, “I Know I’m Not Wrong” and “Tusk” from Tusk, and “Go Your Own Way” from Rumours. Not much standing in the balcony section (Jill was a little surprised) until the song was almost over, and we went down to the floor for the encore. The first song was Holiday Road (from 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation soundtrack), a really fun little song I only found out he was playing the morning before, but I found it online here. Big fans, as most of the people around us knew that one. One more new one, my second favorite from the new album, “Show You How”. Lindsey asked us if we wanted one more (I think he expected the yes), introduced the band, then they left and he was left alone for a moving version of “Bleed To Love Her”, one of my two favorites (along with “Steal Your Heart Away”) off Say You Will. About the only song he didn’t do I would have wanted to hear was “Monday Morning” – haven’t seen the Mac do that either.

We were out of there as soon as the last notes faded, at 10:15 on the dot. We were indeed home by 11, and Jill checked email for class (she got a 98 on the second part of her exam from last week) while I stretched and played with Illa while watching “Heroes” (could have done without the the last 30 seconds). Tuesday morning was rough getting up, but I was into work a little after 9, and I’d brought a frozen enchilada meal for a quick lunch. I met up with Stuart at the Herndon Park and Ride at 6 for the 950 , getting to Gallery Place a little after 7. We were hungry and hit RFD for a couple pints and dinner (the Shiner Bock marinated chicken sandwich for me), then made it to Verizon Center a little after 8. Robert Cray was I’m sure a most appropriate opener for Eric Clapton, but we missed him by minutes. I wasn’t too worried, as I knew we’d see him again.

I was aware of Eric’s big hits, but the first album of his I ever bought was 1989’s Journeyman. That whole album grabbed me, from the straightahead blues rock of “Pretending” and “No Alibis”, the softer acoustic “Running On Faith” and “Run So Far” (with George Harrison), and the bluesy “Old Love” and “Before You Accuse Me”. The first time he came around after I started going to a lot of concerts was for his next tour in 1994, for From the Cradle. Now while From the Cradle was an all-blues album I expected out of the tour what anyone expects from an established artist, which was a couple songs from the new album, mixed in with the hits you know and love (kinda what Lindsey had done, and what Eric would do this night). But I was bitterly disappointed by the show, because it was straight blues all the way through – the only halfway recognizable song was “Crossroads”, and it was the original Robert Johnson version, not Clapton’s version from Cream. Considering Unplugged was a monster hit two years earlier, I at least expected the unplugged version of “Layla” and some of his bluesier songs. Before each song, he’d say whose song he was playing, and eventually the crowd grew restless and some called for an Eric Clapton song, but they were ignored. Not that he didn’t do great versions of the songs, but I wanted the songs I grew up with, not the ones he did. Due to the wonders of the interweb, I knew that this tour was the one I’d wanted all those years – in addition to playing the classics (like he’d been doing since the blues tour), he was playing not one, not two, but three songs from Journeyman, and I was psyched to see the show I’d wanted to see 12 years ago. The irony was at dinner Monday at Bangkok Blues, there were two couples sitting next to us, and one was going to Clapton the next night. They asked the other couple if they were going, but the other guy said no, but he wished he could have caught the 1994 tour! I chuckled to myself over that one.

Eric opened with “Pretending” (nice), then his cover of Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff”, then straight into “Got To Get Better In A Little While”. I knew he was playing a fair amount of Derek and the Dominos songs, but until the show started I hadn’t realized how appropriate that was. Derek Trucks was one of the guitarists playing with Clapton (the other one was Doyle Bramhall II, who I last saw in 1999 playing David Gilmour’s parts for Roger Waters). Besides being a gifted guitarist with his own band, Derek has been a member of The Allman Brothers Band since 1999, and his uncle, drummer Butch Trucks, was a founding member. What made the Derek and the Dominos album special was the presence of Duane Allman playing with Eric, so it felt right that he was playing those songs with someone who’s not only one of the most noted slide guitarists of this generation, but who’s also filling Duane’s place in his old band. Robert Cray came out to join him on “Old Love” (they cowrote the song). “Anyday” was another nice Derek and the Dominos track, but that segued into one of the highlights – I’m quite fond of “Motherless Children”, but with all three guitarists on slide guitar, they just raised it to another level.

They brought out chairs after that, and Derek and Eric played acoustic guitars for “Back Home” (the only song played off his new album). They stayed seated but played electric for “I Am Yours”, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”, and my favorite of the Journeyman tracks they played, “Running On Faith”. Chairs went away and they got loud for the classic version of “After Midnight”, then got blue with Robert Johnson’s “Little Queen Of Spades” (not that I mind him doing the blues, I just don’t want a whole night of it). They really jammed on “Further Up On The Road”, nice solos from all three guitarists, then pleased the crowd by whipping out “Wonderful Tonight” (yes, I called Jill and was that guy holding my phone out). If you’re going to play Derek and the Dominos songs, you’ve got to play “Layla”, and it was an epic version. They finished the set by tearing through “Cocaine”, then kept us waiting a couple minutes before coming back with Robert Cray and closing with “Crossroads”.

I knew that was it and we got out of there quickly, getting the next couple of trains and getting back to the Herndon Park and Ride a little before midnight. Jill was in bed when I got home, and I played with Illa while I watched Stewart/Colbert before going to bed. I got a late start today, and didn’t get home until 8. We had hot dogs for dinner, then Jill joined me for “Lost”, now she’s headed for bed while I surf.

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