Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band with J. Geils Band – Times Union Center (Albany, NY), 12.2.14*

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My early experiences with Bob Seger’s music are unsurprisingly tied to pop culture; like most people my age, I first became aware of his work thanks to Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear in Risky Business.

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That made a big impression on me at the time; those opening notes of “Old Time Rock and Roll” are forever linked to that image of Cruise sliding across the floor and have been so iconic that it has become replicated and parodied in many films and TV shows.

I was reminded of Seger a few years later when “We’ve Got Tonight” was featured on Cheers; Rebecca drunkenly belts that tune out when she realizes that she doesn’t want to get married to Robin and Sam plays the song at her wedding to remind her of her confession the night before and that this isn’t actually what she wants.

 

While I liked both songs, I don’t even know if I put together that they were by the same person until I went to college; my freshman year I hung out a lot on the men’s floor of our dorm – because I’m no dummy – and one of the guys who I fraternized with used to have Bob Seger’s greatest hits on pretty heavy rotation. I was drawn to the songs, perhaps influenced by the fact that I was also drawn to the person playing them, and became something of a Seger fan in the process. I never expanded my horizons beyond that particular greatest hits compilation, but it quickly became one of my favorite albums, even after my interest in the person who introduced me to it faded. Being a Metallica fan, I was particularly excited when they covered “Turn the Page;” I wound up liking both versions quite a bit. There was something about Seger’s no-nonsense rock and roll that just made me happy. When I heard that he was coming to town, I immediately scooped up a ticket. Bob Seger wasn’t someone that I necessarily would have sought out to see live, but since he was coming to me it seemed like fate had intervened for me to see him perform.

In my quest to be more “fiscally responsible” – the quotes are intentional – I opted for the cheap seats for the show. This is something of a seismic shift for me in my concert going; I am generally a spoiled brat that is willing to pay a little extra for better seats. I knew that I was in the upper deck, but I didn’t realize that I was in row N until I arrived at the Times Union Center. As I climbed the stairs to what had previously been forsaken territory, the steepness of the seats made me a little dizzy.

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It wasn’t even that high up, but the angle made it feel more perilous than I was anticipating. As I got acclimated, the sensation that I may fall subsided and the seats wound up not being that terrible. I just don’t think I do all that well with heights. As I looked around the arena, it was pretty apparent that I was one of the youngest people there; at this point, I’m used to being either the oldest or youngest person at a show. People in their 30s just don’t seem to go to a ton of shows, presumably because they are busy with other things like having a family. #suckers

The J. Geils Band kicked things off promptly at 7:30 and I honestly wasn’t too sure what to expect. In a conversation with a co-worker about the show earlier that day, I had two revelations:

I only know three J. Geils Band songs (“Love Stinks,” “Freeze Frame” and “Centerfold”), which are apparently not at all representative of the rest of their catalog.

There isn’t even anyone named J. Geils in the current incarnation of the J. Geils Band.

Both of these nuggets of information were surprising to me; I’d kind of always assumed that if there was an actual J. Geils, he’d be the lead singer and not the guitarist. I guess years of listening to Van Halen have taught me nothing. It seemed a little odd for the titular band member to be absent, but rock and roll is a fickle beast and I guess everyone is replaceable. Of course, Mr. Geils did not go quietly into that good night and filed a lawsuit over the use of his name – not that I blame him – but the end result was that I was watching a J. Geils-less J. Geils Band.

Honestly, J. Geils might want to count his blessings since I was not at all impressed with his former band’s set. The musicians were all pretty solid, but I thought the lead singer Peter Wolf was the epitome of an aging rock star who still thinks he’s a rock star. Clad in a black sequenced jacket, he looked a little like Howard Stern and awkwardly danced around the stage all night. Think Mick Jagger mixed with a toddler learning to walk. It wasn’t good. That could all easily be forgiven if his vocals were on point, but I found him mixed at best. Part of the problem was that because of his frequent strutting around the stage, he kept dropping the microphone from his mouth and so half the lyrics would be lost. While he certainly was powerful, in parts it sounded more like he was sing/yelling rather than singing; it reminded me a little bit of a preacher giving his Sunday sermon. This worked on some songs a lot better than others; I was particularly disappointed by their rendition of “Centerfold,” where his dropping of lyrics resulted in half the song being omitted. I dug the more bluesy sound of their other songs, but I found Wolf way too much of a distraction. I may be in the decided minority here; everyone else in the audience seemed to dig what was happening. Some Baby Boomer in the front row was losing his ever-loving mind over this spectacle. Maybe you had to have fond memories of the band to be into it. As a newbie, it just didn’t do it for me.

Thankfully, I wasn’t really there to see J. Geils so while they weren’t exactly my cup of tea, I found them more amusing than disappointing. After a quick intermission Bob Seger took the stage and he sounded exactly as he did on the cd that I used to listen to so religiously. He may be a lot greyer and not quite as energetic as he used to be, but even with a little off his fastball he put on a very solid and entertaining show. He kicked things off with “Roll Me Away” and had the audience in the palm of his hand for the rest of the evening; even during the songs that he played off his new album, there was very little movement in the crowd. There is usually a mass exodus for concessions and the restrooms when a performer announces that they are playing something “off their new album” but from my vantage point high above the floor, I saw only nominal departures. He wisely sprinkled the new songs in sporadically among his more popular hits, though my limited knowledge of his “deeper cuts” (aka – anything that didn’t make the greatest hits album) meant that a lot more of the songs were new to me than they were for the rest of the crowd.

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Bob Seger is a pretty workaday artist and he kept things pretty simple; while Peter Wolf was all flash in this stage persona, Seger was just a guy up there with a guitar. His only rock star accoutrement was a silly black headband that he wore during much of the show; he looked a lot like an average dad who just happens to be a musician. Its silliness was endearing; it looked ridiculous, but it was so authentic that is wasn’t even comical. His banter with the crowd was limited, but he told the occasional joke or story. In way of introduction to “We’ve Got Tonight” he relayed the story of how excited his mother was to hear a music version of the song in an elevator in Hawaii. It was all business with Seger, but he was still clearly passionate about his music; his rendition of “Turn the Page” was pretty spectacular and earned him a standing ovation. It was quiet enough that you could hear the entire venue singing right along with him and it sounded really fantastic. I even liked his new stuff and will consider procuring the new album.

Despite my relative disconnect with the opening act, I am very glad that I made the decision to see Bob Seger. While it was not the most over the top or energetic show that I’ve ever see, I really appreciated Seger and his blue-collar approach to rock and roll. I don’t necessarily think that I’d seek him out again, but I’m pleased to be able that I’ve seen him perform live at least once. Being able to experience “Hollywood Nights,” Night Moves” and “Like a Rock” first hand was pretty cool; my only real disappointment was that he didn’t do my favorite song “You’ll Accomp’ny Me,” which I really love despite the unnecessary abbreviation of the title. Not a show for the ages, but a very relaxing and entertaining evening of classic rock.

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s Ride Out tour continues through March of 2015.

 

*If you are looking for this week’s pop culture roundup, it was posted yesterday.

Boston – A Pop Culture Tribute

Given the tragic bombings in Boston yesterday, I can’t help but have the city on my mind. I have always loved the city of Boston; though it is one of America’s oldest cities, it also has a distinctively young vibe to it because of all the colleges and young professionals that settle in the area. After I graduated from college a large number of my friends moved to Boston, so I have been a frequent visitor to the city over the years (listen when people tell you to skip the climb to the Bunker Hill monument – it really isn’t worth it). I saw my first professional baseball and hockey games in Boston and it was the first major city I ever wandered around alone and unsupervised at the age of 11 (thanks inadequately chaperoned field trip!). As a Yankees and Bills fan, my sporting life in inevitable intertwined with the city.  I have so many fond memories in Boston that while I would weep for whatever city this happened to, this attack had special resonance to me.
To send a little love Boston’s way, today’s blog will feature some of my favorite Beantown inspired pop culture. The city has been the setting for many movies, books and TV shows and has given the world many actors and musicians, so it didn’t take long to come up with a short list of all the ways that Boston has influenced the world of pop culture.

  • New Kids on the Block – I may have retired from my boy band ways, but there is no getting around the fact that for a few select years of my life, NKOTB was pretty much the center of my universe. All the guys are from the Boston area and often paid tribute to their city in their choice of attire. It is because of my childhood crush on Joey McIntyre that I find the Boston accent so charming. My infatuation with the group helped spark my interest in Boston and is probably why I know so much about the city today.

 

  • Fenway Park – I have my issues with the team that plays there, but I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Fenway. Next to Yankee Stadium(s), it is the ballpark that I’ve spent the most time in and I love the old time feel of the place. I always have a good time wandering around Yawkey Way before a game and I’ve had one of the best sausage and peppers sandwiches of my life from one of the stands outside the stadium. Fenway is a great part of the history of not only Boston, but of baseball, and I’m glad that it exists.
From my most recent trip to Fenway

From my most recent trip to Fenway

 

  • Dennis Lehane books – I am a big fan of the author Dennis Lehane, who wrote Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River and Shutter Island, and the majority of his books take place in the city of Boston. His novels have a noir feel and tend to portray the working class neighborhoods of the city (“Southie” is a particular favorite local of his); Lehane is from Dorchester, so he knows that of which he writes and his novels have an authentic local feel to them. He may focus on the seedy underbelly of many of the neighborhoods, but he does so with respect and love. His books have been successfully adapted into movies and I think the ease of that transition is due to the fact that he creates such a clear picture of the world that his stories are occurring in that it makes it harder for a director or screenwriter to screw it up.

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  • Cheers – Who wouldn’t want to go to a bar where everybody knows your name? The Bull and Finch bar in Boston was the loose model for the bar in Cheers and is used for the exterior shot of the bar during the credits (though the actual bar is much smaller). While Cheers felt like a lot of neighborhood bars, there is no denying that the show had a Boston flair to it – references were often made to the city and the sports teams and many Boston figures found their way into Cheers for a pint.

 

  • Dropkick Murphys – They are technically from Quincy, but I feel like that is close enough to count. Boston has historically Irish roots and the Dropkick Murphys’ brand of Celtic punk adequately pays homage to that ancestry. Their cover of the song “Tessie” became the unofficial anthem of the 2004 Red Sox team and their quest to finally win a World Series after an 86 year drought. I used to listen to Dropkick Murphys to get myself pumped up on the elliptical and before fantasy baseball drafts (when you are the only girl in the league, you need to bring your game face to be taken seriously).

 

  • The Departed – Lots of movies have been set in Boston, but I think The Departed is among my favorites. A great cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson) and fantastic director (Martin Scorsese would win an Oscar) helped make this adaption of the Korean film Infernal Affairs (which I also have seen) so successful and memorable. And yes, that is a Dropkick Murphys song playing in the background.

 

  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – Both these actors have been ambassadors for the city of Boston during their careers. The two actors grew up together in Cambridge and have always been loyal to their Boston area roots. Their first collaboration, Good Will Hunting, was set in Boston and Affleck cut his teeth as a director with two movies that were both located in Boston (Gone Baby Gone and The Town). The city means a lot to them; in the wake of the bombing, Affleck posted the Facebook message “Such a senseless and tragic day. My family and I send our love to our beloved and resilient Boston.”

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  • Sully and Denise on Saturday Night Live – I always got a kick out of these characters played by Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch.  These sketches never failed to make me laugh, even if they were exaggerated caricatures of how people see Boston residents. Besides, it is well established that I love just about anything associated with Fallon (though even I didn’t like the movie Taxi – that was terrible). This sketch features an appearance by another one of my favorite things from the Boston area – Conon O’Brien!

 

  • Aerosmith – My love for the “bad boys of Boston” is well documented and no list of my favorite things would be complete without them, even without the Boston specific focus of this list. After more than 40 years together, they still know how to rock; when I saw them live last year, they seemed just an energized as a band half their age.

 

I’m sure the list could go on and on; the Boston area has given us so much and now it is our time to give something back to them. All of my friends in the area were fortunately safe and sound yesterday, but many people weren’t so lucky. Boston is a resilient city and I have no doubt that they will come out of this terrible experience only stronger. The entire nation is thinking of them during this dark time. This message last night on the Brooklyn Academy says it all:

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Stay strong Boston – we’re with you!

Pop Culture Elections

As you are more than aware, today is Election Day. While I think that it is very important that people exercise their right to vote, I’ll honestly be glad when this whole thing is over. This election has exhausted even this political scientist. So much vitriol. I’m ready to be done with it.

In honor of today, I thought about campaigns and elections in pop culture and was surprised at the number of examples I could come up with; apparently it is a much more frequent plot device than I anticipated. Perhaps people prefer the drama and potential comedy of elections that feature fictional characters and no real consequences. So if you want a break from today’s election coverage, check out some of my favorite instances of pop culture campaigns and elections.

  • Election (1999)

I.LOVE.THIS.MOVIE. Election is a great black comedy about a high school election for student body president. I would argue that this is Reese Witherspoon’s best performance of her career; as over-achiever Tracy Flick, she is hilariously neurotic and obsessed.

The rest of the cast is great too. Matthew Broderick is a lot of fun as Mr. McAllister, Tracy’s teacher and nemesis, who tries to stop her from winning. I’ve always had a soft spot for Chris Klein and he is great as McAllister’s unwitting pawn. The stakes are low, but not to the people involved. There is just as much treachery and subterfuge in this student body election as there is in the big leagues.

This scene may sum up how a lot of people feel about today:

 

  • Community – Intro to Political Science

Not a surprise that this is one of my favorite episodes of Community. Jeff decides to challenge Annie in her quest to become president of the Greendale Community College student body. The debate is hilarious on many levels, but I especially enjoyed Troy and Abed’s coverage. The news crawl had all sorts of Easter Eggs for fans and Troy has one of the best lines of the episode: “It’s like God spilled a person.”

Man, I miss this show.

  • Cheers – Woody Gets an Election

This is an oldie, but a goodie. When Fraiser is fed up with the American voting public and their willingness to lap up whatever candidates say, he decided to run Woody for Boston City Council to prove a point. His campaign strategy might sound a little familiar:

The idea of poor, dim Woody in office makes me smile every time I think about it.

  • Family Guy – It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One

Family Guy has dealt with campaigns on numerous occasions – Peter and Lois ran against each other for school board and Brian tried to stop same-sex marriage from being recognized in Quahog, – but my favorite is when Lois decided to run for mayor against Adam West. This scene in particular always cracks me up and tends to sum up what I think about the ability to persuade undecided voters (seriously – who is still undecided this late in the election?).

 

  • The Campaign (2012)

Thisis one of my favorite movies of 2012. As I wrote in my review, I had my doubts about the film, but it wound up being very funny while also commenting on the sad state of affairs that our current political system is in. Ferrell and Galifianakis are a great team.

 

  • Arrested Development – Immaculate Election

I love all the episodes of Arrested Development, but the episode where George Michael decides to run for student council in probably in my top ten. Steve Holt has always been one of my favorite fringe characters and he is front and center as the Goliath to George Michael’s David. And the campaign ad that Gob creates for his nephew is priceless:

 

  • Bob Roberts (1992)

I don’t know that words can express how much I love this movie. Written and directed by Tim Robbins, it is a wonderful satire of the election process. It follows the rise of a right wing former folk singer (Robbins) as he tries to defeat the incumbent Senator. An amazing cast – Robbins, Alan Rickman, blog favorite Giancarlo Esposito, James Spader, John Cusack and Susan Sarandon – only elevates a great script. This film is now 20 years old, but illustrates how little things have changed.

 

  • Parks and Recreation

Most of the fourth season of Parks and Recreation focused on Leslie’s campaign for Pawnee City Council. Leslie was the underdog, running against the heir to the Sweetums fortune (guest star Paul Rudd). There were many great moments as Leslie had to rely on her friends from the Parks Department to help her campaign, a task that they were eager – if not under qualified – to do. This story arc was representative of the show as a whole; while it poked fun at the political process, there was still a real sweetness to it.

 

  • The Wire

One of the overarching stories of season four of The Wire was the mayoral race in Baltimore. This is hands down my favorite season of a great show; between its focus on the election and on the school system, it was extremely powerful and devastating. Carcetti faces an uphill battle in his attempt to become the next Mayor and he is certainly a flawed character, but it makes for brilliant television. And yes – the actor who plays Carcetti is the same guy who plays Littlefinger on Game of Thrones.

Best show ever.

  • Parenthood

Parenthood has done various storylines attached to elections – last season, Christina went back to work on Bob Little’s campaign and Amber had a romantic entanglement with Little – but Max’s decision to run for student body president this season was especially poignant. If only all campaign speeches were this honest and heart felt

 

  •  Saved By The Bell

I think it is mandatory that all shows that take place in high school eventually get around to doing an election story, and Saved By The Bell is no different. And of course, Zack Morris would have to throw his hat in the ring for president.

Look how young they all are!

And finally, I thought this chart was kind of interesting. Do your television choices match up with your political preference?

 

 

I couldn’t highlight them all, so what are your favorite campaigns and elections in pop culture? Sound off in the comments below. And make sure that your voice is heard today. If I’m dragging my sick self to the polls, you have no excuses.