Live music is back. Or, at least it was for a brief moment in July before Florida rolled out the red carpet for the Delta variant. (Prediction: The Delta Variant will be a popular rock band coming to an outdoor festival near you.) Back in July, my vaccinated wife and I loaded up our two kids and our masks to attend an indoor concert.
Taking our kids to a concert has proven risky. The first show we ever took them to was when we spent a semester of their college savings to see Bruno Mars at the zenith of his stardom. When Mr. Mars took the stage with a horn section and pyrotechnics, our terror-stricken young children fell to the floor holding their shattered eardrums and broken souls. (The retelling was my most-read column when the Gabber publisher and I dominated another news publication.)
When my wife buys concert tickets, it’s time to dust off your eight tracks. She’s a connoisseur of anything post-Beatles, pre-U2. How would our kids handle an indoor show of 1970s bands whose careers are at, well… what’s the opposite of “zenith”? We took them to the cool comfy confines of Ruth Eckerd Hall to see three bands whose combined hits might fill the A-side of a Time/Life mail-order box set. I’m talking about light favorite juggernauts: Pure Prairie League, Firefall and Orleans.
For those unfamiliar with these truck stop jukebox heroes, Pure Prairie League is most known for their mega hit “Amie” (whatchu wanna do-oo?) and for their most famous member, Vince Gill, being in the band for about five minutes. I steeled myself to endure three hours of woozy guitar solos before finally hearing “Amie.”
Firefall is a band I’d never heard of. Ever. But I knew their hit, “You Are the Woman” (that I’ve always dreamed of). Orleans is known for “Dance With Me” as well as a couple of other pleasing soft hits. Their deep-voiced guitarist John Hall had a memorable stint in the U.S. Congress. The trivia in these bands runs deep.
It’s a lot to ask a child to sit through three and a half hours of music sprinkled with three or four songs they vaguely recognize from long car rides. Our kids were by far the youngest in the audience. Monica and I were the second youngest. But the musicianship and fine acoustics held our young ones rapt. Each of these bands are down to two or three original members, plus a “new guy” who has “only” been with them for 25 years, and someone who may not have been born when they had their first record deal.
Our kids were entertained not just by the music, but by the gyrations of a few over-served patrons near the front. (I love it when one person wants to dance, and also feels compelled to angrily implore the rest of the seated audience to join them.)
I was excited that Pure Prairie League took the stage first, but I grew a little concerned when they played for more than an hour and fifteen minutes before getting around to the one song I knew. If each band planned to play their “deep cuts” we might not make it to the second intermission. But Firefall’s lead guitarist, Jock Bartley (best ‘70s rock name ever), attacked their set with the zeal of a man with a mint condition Dodge conversion van in his carport.
By the time Orleans took the stage, our daughter was soundly asleep in one of Ruth Eckerd’s big plush seats, and our son was getting antsy. But while the crowd’s most entertaining dancing drunks didn’t have the staying power to hear Orleans’ greatest hit, we were still there when the house lights came up.
We made it to the glorious end, singing “You’re Still the One” like Gerald Ford was president. The surviving members of the ‘70s Monsters of Lite Rock bade farewell to the surviving members of the audience and an old-timer offered us a broad grin and fist-bump: “Congratulations on making it all the way through. Impressive!”
I can’t tell if our kids are sincere or if they’re blowing smoke when they tell us how much fun they had. I don’t really care. I didn’t mind indulging Firefall’s “new stuff” or Orleans’ extended jams. After almost two years without seeing a live show, to hold my wife’s hand while she sings “Amie” like it’s 1975 is about the best way to spend a summer evening.