A Glitch in Time Saves None

Where were you when the lights didn't go out? All the dangers of Celebration 2000 that Phoenix shut-ins sat out.

The Blossoms broke up three New Year's Eves ago, and you wonder if this is an attempt to turn back the clock, to make people think the subsequent three years of Pharoahs 2000, the Low-Watts, Gas Giants and being dropped from A&M were all a dream, like that penultimate season of Dallas. The Blossoms' set comes off smooth and professional, yet the polite civility with which the audience greets every familiar tune doesn't seem to indicate that this is a band that people have been waiting for three years to reunite. Diehards who wanted to relive that old miserable experience already packed into Long Wong's last Wednesday for the Blossoms' "secret" gig, which everyone in Tempe seemed to know about. This Patriots Square Park recital seems more like it's the secret gig, the lucrative Castles 'n' Coasters booking musicians usually don't tell their buddies about. By and large, this smiling throng doesn't know a Doug Hopkins song from a Mary Hopkins one; they're just happy to be out of the house and not getting blown to bits by terrorists. It might as well have been the Association up there. If only Robin Wilson would break into "Cherish" just to give everyone a much-needed reality check up the ass.

If the Gin Blossoms seem like just another oldies act tonight, at least everyone onstage actually played on the records and those records were hits in the last quarter of the century. Here's a helpful hint when watching non-modern rock oldie bands. If it's fat, gray and moves sporadically, it's called an "original member." Why would the Association hire a new gray fat guy if they could get a skinny young buck with modern lenswear wearing brand-spanking-new vintage clothing? If you ask me, there's a mountain of age discrimination lawsuits in Oldiesland just waiting to happen.

What doesn't seem inevitable in this PTA atmosphere are any acts of random violence. The only arrest of note was someone illegally touching a policeman's horse, and you could just imagine how many of the 8,000 deployed officers were on hand to blurt out, "Sir, step away from the equine." At this point, any unforeseen cancer agents in those glowsticks kids are happily shoving in their mouths pose more of a threat than terrorists or Y2K. For a split second, I have the feeling there is a giant rat rummaging at my feet, but it's a street cleaner picking up a discarded paper cup. Whoever heard of having street cleaners picking up garbage during the event? Now I feel like I'm at a relative's house and my fussy aunt is serving cookies with one hand and brandishing a Dustbuster in the other.

Meanwhile, Three Dog Night's holding court at City Hall. Here's a band that hasn't had a hit since 1975, and you can't even get near that stage. There's genuine rapturous devotion on display, with people mouthing the words to every single song. Even the embarrassing ones like "Black and White" -- that oldies stations choose to ignore. Taking a conservative guesstimate, I'd say there are about 12,000 people in attendance overall, and a good half of them are huddled here singing "Never Been to Spain." Later, organizers will claim that Celebration 2000 drew 75,000 people. Yeah, right. And they were all crouching in darkened Port-A-Sans.

Time: 11:30 something or 11:40 something

Arrive at Alice Cooper'stown just as "No More Mr. Nice Guy" ends and "Be My Lover" begins. I look this crowd over. If this is supposed to be a masquerade ball, then everyone's come disguised as wealthy middle-aged couples from Scottsdale. Indeed, at 500 clams a pop, it's hard to imagine anyone in this slacker-free zone owning Beck's new CD. There are, however, a handful a people under the age of 16 in attendance, probably because even this shindig's steep ticket price is cheaper than what baby sitters charge on New Year's Eve. About the youngest people were Alice's band, uncontaminated as it was by any "original members." Good thing, too. Since this backing band is the same age as the original Alice Cooper group in its heyday, they play with the necessary ferocity to keep things from slipping into parody.

Alice, dressed in his swashbuckler's outfit and looking like a cross between Captain Hook and Jamie Farr, is an amiable host, showing enough baby's brain and old man's heart to advise audience members not to drink and drive inside his establishment. He reels off all his customary rockers from "Eighteen" to "School's Out" to "Lost in America" with the consummate menace and urgency that managed to wrestle praise from the notoriously stingy Johnny Rotten in Cooper's recent boxed set. Cynics who wrote Alice off as tame for playing golf and appearing on Hollywood Squares would find the evening's most transcendent moment thoroughly enjoyable: Alice simulates spousal abuse onstage during "Only Women Bleed" while pillars of the community slow-dance in tuxes and evening gowns and people cheer. Whether it's for the music, for Alice's bitch slapping or just the horrific spectacle of it all, it hardly matters.

Just then, for some reason, Guy Lombardo, Mr. New Year's Eve until his death in 1977, pops back into my head. Here was a guy who sold more than 100 million records, had 218 chart singles and 26 number ones (more than Elvis or the Beatles) between 1927 and 1954, the year rock reared its infant head. He was 52 when the hits stopped coming, the same age Alice is tonight. Not only did we thoroughly forget Lombardo, but we blew off electing a New Year's Eve representative to succeed him.

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