Monday, September 1, 2008

Back On Top (Aspen, 8/30)

First appeared here-

Given the off-kilter feel of the KC show, I was uncertain about what to expect as I started out for Aspen. A lightening bolt lit up the clouds as I rounded the corner into Kansas, illuminating the busses puttering along. I fly by, wondering if that cinematic image was a good sign, or meant instead that we were heading for a stormy performance.

The day of the show did little to ease my apprehensions. The short of it was; even thought I’d arrived early, I had to leave for a few minutes, and when I came back, they would not let me back into the lot, would not sell me a parking pass, etc, etc. I ended up having to park at the next lot……..roughly a mile up a very large hill. No one could agree on a time when I would be able to buy one, etc, etc. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind, but this was a festival and the doors were opening at 2. I didn’t want to walk up and down the damn mtn in the hot sun all day, as it was a pretty long run up to the rails and I’d need energy, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be at the top of the road should they open doors early. I tried to stay positive, but it was unnerving nonetheless. 

The other thing bothering me was the stage setup. While I commend Jazz Aspen Snowmass for setting up the VIP area length wise rather then width-wise in front of the stage, they really set it up on the wrong side! I enjoy standing in front of Denny and Tony, but that was all taken up by the VIP area and the center was cordoned off as a security path back to the soundboard. This could very easily have turned into a bad deal for me, and was starting to give me a bad feeling.

That feeling was not helped when my line’s scanner wasn’t working. Surprisingly, there were only 2 people ahead of me once we got inside the festival grounds, both from my group and both doing nothing more then jogging. While the thundering masses did eventually catch up to us, I did get my spot; squeezed into the far left corner of the commoners’ pen haha. 

The opening acts were awful. The first chick seemed to want to be a mid-80s Angela Strehli, but it wasn’t happening. Her right handed guitarist contributed NOTHING. I don’t know, she might be a real entertaining act in a smaller room, w/ a bunch of drunks who just want to dance and have a good time, but no one was really having any of it there.

Ziggy Marley was, above and beyond, the absolute WORST act I have EVER seen! I don’t get reggee music, but I went at it w/ an open mind, and G-d, was it bad. It was as if he opened a book of clich├ęs, flipped through it, took 2 or 3 lines out if it and said “there, that will be my song!” I’ll spare you my long rant, but there were 9 musicians on that stage, and none of them was doing anything even remotely interesting. The most interesting thing during that whole set was when Tony wandered into the wings and talked to one of the Dylan crew guys hanging out there. Literally. I tired to keep myself entertained by watching the rich yuppies dance around, which, don’t get me wrong, was great fun, but I kept getting sucked back by an INCREDIBLY terrible line. G-d, I have never lived through a longer hour and 15 set. Grrrooooooooooooooooan! At least during the Strehli wannabe set I could sit.

By this time, I am really not feeling better about the show. I’m in a bit of a bad mood after enduring that auditory torture, and just praying that whatever was plaguing them in KC, that they were able to work it out.

They predictably opened w/ RDW (for some reason he always opens CO w/ it). I am not in a bad spot, maybe 3 or 4 people to the left of being completely in line w/ Dylan, but I think a whole lot of people got screwed into watching his back all night.

Denny’s strat appears to be working fine this night, and holy shit, does he put it to work during the second song, Baby Blue. Blew the water off the KC version, and his solo, man, I could not stop smiling the entire time. It was one of those like the Senor in Dallas, that just completely grabs you and wont let go, absolutely slayed it. If you haven’t figured it out by now, that is how a guitar should be played! Its clear as they charge into Most Likely that they’re a completely different band then the were in KC. Everyone is on top of their game and its clear my worries were unfounded.

The next song sees Donnie strapping on his banjo. My guess is High Water, or possibly Ma. I am wrong though, as he begins to play those oh-so familiar chords. ‘Nope,” I think to myself, as I being to bop to the music, ‘Cry Awhile”.

Cry Awhile!!! Oh shit!!!!!!!! The world comes to a screeching halt, and I can do nothing but stare mouth agape as Tony not only plays the album version (on electric), but above and beyond it. He goes up, down, left, right, backwards, forwards, all over that fucing neck! That is his song and he knows it. He is once again proving he is the master of that instrument. I can hear Denny playing a really scorching solo over there, but I cant tear my eyes away from those 4 strings. The sound is incredible. I never want the song to end, I cant describe the feeling. I am not delusional, don’t get me wrong, I do not think I influence, sway whatever, the setlists in any way, but that was the song I asked Tony about in the parking lot back in May. That was my whole reason for walking over and talking to them. That was the arrangement he forgot. In our shooting the breeze, it came up that I was from Colorado, and there he was, in my home state, playing it!!!!! Again, I have no delusions that it was “played for me” or anything like that; it was simply a coincidence, but man, was it the best coincidence I’ve ever experienced!!!!! I’m still amazed I saw it. That was really one for the ages in my book. After that song ended, I could have been struck by lightning and I’d have still be on cloud 9.

Cry Awhile seemed to kick off something w/i the guys, and pushed Mobile to a completely different level then it usually resides in. Same for Love Sick, every song had that extra something behind it.

Tweedle saw Stu’s first lead of the night, and from the incredible sound, I could tell he was really tearing it up. Unfortunately, all I could see sticking out from behind the Leslie cabinet that let me know he was there at all was his head and the curve of his guitar’s head stock, nothing else. :?

I could continue commenting every song, but they’d all say the same; this song f’n rocked!!! These guys were on fire the entire night, from standards like H61, to the ones the set watcher drool over, like UTRS and Visions. At the encore, someone pointed out that we had not had one MT song. Impressed, we were sure that would change w/ Thunder, but no! I didn’t miss them during the show, but I do hope that they aren’t slowly abandoned.

Even the yuppies, who I was sure wouldn’t be the least bit concerned had a blast, standing and dancing like the rest of us. The sound was perfect, and for such a tall and deep stage, they were very visible. Not only were they back on top, but they had something to prove. This show is easily one of the top 3 shows I’ve seen, and more then made up for the parking and Ziggy Marley bullshit. I couldnt have asked for a better last show in Colorado.

No bolts of electricity this time as I pass the band, just the glow of something green on the TV outlining a head leaning against the window, but you don’t need to be a genius to know that the next show is going to be incredible!

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