Book Review
Born to Run
Bruce Springsteen

It’s exactly what you’d expect. That’s not to say that there is no new information and no surprises but the sometimes almost poetic writing style is exactly what I expected from a man who has produced some of the most notable English language lyrics of the last four decades. It’s no secret that some of those lyrics were just a bit autobiographical so it’s possible to think of this as sort of a much longer and more detailed version of the story he’s been singing since he first greeted us from Asbury Park.

It’s all intertwined, isn’t it? Central to the story that he tells so compellingly is the fact that he is a compelling story teller. The reason we know the name Bruce Springsteen and the reason we are interested in his biography is that he is a phenomenal performer, talented musician, skilled song writer, masterful band leader, and… compelling story teller.

As a long time fan, I knew the basics so the book really did do a lot of detail filling in for me and most of those details weren’t surprising. They were just additional and better information that fit what I already knew about his family, early bands, management squabbles, and the like. To a lesser degree that’s even true about the battles with depression. There’s no doubt that one of the highest highs in the world is being Bruce Springsteen on stage so it’s not hard to accept that being Bruce Springsteen off stage can sometimes be one of the lowest lows. He writes candidly about it as he does with everything else.

Although not all do, an autobiography, besides being able to include some otherwise unknown details, can include intimate thoughts and attitudes not available to biography writers. I had read almost the entire book before it finally registered with me that this was the case with Born to Run from the very first page. By “almost the entire book” I mean the last sentence of the next to last chapter. In a paragraph that may have been the final one in some not quite finished version of the book, Springsteen tells us that “Discretion and the feelings of others…” have kept certain things out of the book but that the inside of his head isn’t one of them. “But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise: to show the reader his mind. In these pages I’ve tried to do that.”

The book contains plenty of insightful serious glimpses into that mind but a couple of insightful fun ones really registered with me. Both were in the relatively recent past. One shows his unstoppable ambition  and the other his sheer love of rock and roll.

The E Street Band’s 2009 Super Bowl appearance has been cited as the seed for this book. I’d seen the four song performance and kind of assumed it was no big deal to Springsteen. It was and he was extremely nervous in the days and minutes before show time. He had played to plenty of filled stadiums but not to 150 million TV viewers. He still had worlds to concur. “I felt my band remained one of the mightiest in the land and I wanted you to know it.”

In 2012 the Rolling Stones were playing in Bruce’s neighborhood and asked him to join them for “Tumbling Dice”. There’s a video online and in it Bruce never stops grinning. It’s possible he hadn’t stopped grinning since the night before when they rehearsed it — one time! — in a warehouse. “…these are,” as Bruce explains it, “the guys who INVENTED” my job!”

The last chapter, titled “Long Time Coming”, could serve as an epilogue if a labeled epilogue didn’t begin on the next page. It begins with some thoughts about the Springsteen generations immediately before and after his own. Writing this book helped him understand his parents and he has some hope that it will help his kids understand him. The sentence that begins the chapter’s second paragraph is “I work to be an ancestor.” Like so many magic snippets of his lyrics, those half-dozen words say more than most people can say in a full page. Almost everything he’s written about his own ancestors throughout the book and about his own offspring in its most recent chapters is brought into sharp focus with that one sentence.

The epilogue follows and there is even an essentially unnecessary “About the Author” page. The book ends with several pages of photographs that begin with baby Bruce and end with Bruce and wife Patti on horseback leaning together to share a kiss. My guess is he’s going to be a pretty good ancestor.

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen, Simon & Schuster; September 27, 2016, 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 528 pages, ISBN 978-1501141515

Trip Peek #45
Trip #112
American Songline in Hayesville

pv40This picture is from my 2013 American Songline in Hayesville trip. During the Lincoln Highway’s centennial, singer Cece Otto performed a series of concerts along the highway including one at the historic opera house in Hayseville, Ohio. I centered a three day trip around the concert by preceding it with a Carey Murdock concert in Van Wert, Ohio, and following it with a visit to the Columbus Zoo. Cece documented her centennial concerts with a 2015 book which I reviewed here.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Last Week

chartickAs threatened, I did go to last Sunday’s The Beatles At Crosley – 50 Years Later! I probably should have coughed up $1.29 for a Wild Thing MP3 but I didn’t so there was no point in cruising the Senior Center. I did, however, make the drive with the top down despite the fact that number of wheels and a collapsible top are about the only things my 2003 Miata has in common with my 1959 Impala. Other differences between 1966 and 2016 include the presence of a camera in my hands. I still had no souvenirs but I could photograph other people’s. The ticket stub pictured above (note the word “bleaches”) belongs to long time friend Charlotte Wiltberger. By long time I mean that, although I didn’t know her when she bought the ticket, we would meet in a matter of months.

bacf50_01bacf50_02A five foot blowup of one of Gordon Baer’s Cincinnati Post photographs was placed on the field to provide a nice spot for attendees to pose for their own photos. I walked to the first base side of the field to snap a shot that approximates my field of view at the concert.

bacf50_05bacf50_04bacf50_03The event was sponsored by radio station WVXU and the brainchild of John Kiesewetter. That’s John on the left of the first picture introducing Dusty Rhodes. Dusty is now Hamilton County Auditor but once upon a time was a radio discjockey and one of the men responsible for bringing the Beatles to Cincinnati in both 1964 and 1966. The middle picture is of The Beatles Invade Cincinnati author Scott Belmer. Discjockey Jim LaBarbara, in the third picture, didn’t move to Cincinnati until 1969 but “The Music Professor” had contact with the Beatles in other cities.

bacf50_06bacf50_07Other folks sharing memories included discjockey Tom Sandman and musician (Haymarket Riot) Steve Helwig. That’s Bev Olthaus and Charlotte, whose ticket appears at the top of this post, in the second picture. Bev attended both the 1964 and ’66 concerts and has both tickets and a scrapbook filled with memories. There’s a better look at what Charlotte has in that frame here.

bacf50_09bacf50_08Jeff and Misty of the Newbees wrapped things up by leading a sing-along of Beatles songs. No screaming. No crying or fainting. Just a bunch of people with fifty year old memories mouthing the words to songs that helped many of us through quite a few of those fifty years.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today…

bcftic…that the Beatles finally got to play — at Crosley Field. I was there. I was also there the day before when they didn’t get to play. Thinking about that weekend still brings a smile despite details having seriously faded from many of my memories and others turning out to be dead wrong. I have no souvenirs or photos. The ticket in the image above isn’t mine (It’s from RareBeatles.) but I once had eighteen of them.

Tickets went on sale in April as my freshman year at the University of Cincinnati was winding down. Someone down the hall from my dorm room was a friend of Joe Santangelo, the younger brother of concert promoter Dino Santangelo. That was certainly lucky but was not nearly as miraculous as the fact that I had money at the end of the school year. Joe could provide third row tickets and I had a hundred dollars. I bought eighteen at $5.50 each. That was face value. No service charge. No handling fee. No Ticket Master. I’m not certain but I’m thinking that the money may have come from a few weeks of wearing a stinky T-shirt and letting people sniff my armpits. Proctor and Gamble often used students in product tests. I participated in a couple and their completions marked some of the few time I actually had cash in hand in those days.

I sold fifteen of those tickets for as much as ten dollars a piece. It was my only serious scalping venture and I remember minor feelings of guilt at selling something for nearly double what I’d paid. I also remember that I didn’t like being a salesman and it showed in my lack of total success. When August 20 arrived I still had three tickets in my possession. Two were for me and my date. The third was left over inventory.

Yes, I had a date but it hadn’t been easy. School was out and I was back in Darke County with the concert about a hundred miles away. None of the few girls I had any sort of contact with could or would go. As I recall, Micky was the friend of a co-worker. What I do recall vividly is picking her up. This was in the final days of my 1959 Chevy co-ownership. The sky was clear and the sun was shining as I pulled up to her house with the top down and those big white fins spread out behind me. The Troggs’ Wild Thing was playing on the AM radio as I turned off the car and headed to the door to meet a girl I’d only talked with on the phone. There is simply no denying that the Beatles and Troggs can make you feel cool even when you’re not.

I can’t remember when the top went up. Maybe we made the whole drive with the car open or maybe we closed it to help with conversation and to keep Micky’s hair in place. It’s really strange what details stick and which disappear. At the stadium it quickly became clear that I had little chance of selling my extra ticket. The concert had not sold out and the scalping scene that we know today did not yet exist in any case. I ended up giving it to the usher who showed us to our seats near first base. No one ever appeared for the seat so he may very well have the souvenir that I don’t.

When the rain hit, someone magically produced several big plastic sheets and everyone in our section tried to form some shelter. Attempts to dump pools that collected without drenching someone weren’t always successful and waterfalls could appear at any time where sheets came together. But I don’t remember anyone becoming the least bit angry. We were all wet and arms got tired as we struggled to hold that plastic above us while hoping against hope to hear the music we had all come for. The huddled masses under that plastic may have been soggy and disappointed but we were having fun and laughing. Maybe it was because we were all younger. Maybe it’s because the world was.

I recall Micky having a good time and laughing along with everyone else and there was a solid reason that she couldn’t return the next day. Even so, we never saw each other again. I suppose that a pair of two hour rides separated only by sitting in the rain for two hours might not be the ideal first date.

Fortunately my buddy Dale was able to make it and the two of us headed to Cincinnati for the rescheduled concert. We didn’t quite make it in time although I’m not 100% sure when we did make it. Combining our sketchy memories with author Scott Belmer’s “the best we can figure” sequence of opening acts and songs from The Beatles Invade Cincinnati, I think we must have reached the ballpark about the time the Cyrkle took the stage. Belmer lists the sequence of acts as the Remains, the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, and Bobby Hebb and he thinks the Cyrkle opened their set with Red Rubber Ball. I recall hearing that song before we reached our seats; Maybe even before we entered the park. So we probably caught part of the Cyrkle’s set, all of Hebb’s, and missed the Remains and Ronettes completely. Besides doing their own short set, the Remains were the backing band for both the Ronettes and Hebb so we would have at least seen them perform. Had we seen them open we would probably remember them much better. Something that I only learned in putting this post together is that they began the show with Hang On Sloopy. It wasn’t the Remains that had put the song on the charts the preceding fall. That was the local band the McCoys who Dale and I both knew rather well. We might have actually remembered that if we’d heard it.

I have learned that at least one of my memories was absolutely wrong. For many years I told people that the Beatles had opened with Paperback Writer and that the opening harmonies sounded very non-harmonic. Every account I’ve seen says they opened with Rock and Roll Music and Paperback Writer was their tenth and next to last song. I obviously misremembered the sequence but I’m sticking by the non-harmonic part. I think there may have been some speakers along the base lines and we could hear the music to some degree. There was stiff competition, however, and I think I watched the screaming and crying girls in the stands nearly as much as I watched the show on the fairly distant stage. Neither Dale nor I screamed or cried and I don’t think Micky would have either. Of course, we’ll never know for sure.

The Beatles flew directly to Saint Louis to perform that evening. Four more shows (New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco) completed the tour. They never toured again. Crosley Field served as the Reds home for three and a half more seasons before being replaced and demolished. In 1988 a replica of the field was constructed in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash. Later today, the fiftieth anniversary of the concert will be celebrated there. (The Beatles At Crosley – 50 Years Later!} The weather looks promising so maybe I’ll put the top down on the Miata, crank up Wild Thing on the iPod, and see if any of the chicks at the Senior Center want to go.

ADDENDUM 28-Aug-2016: There’s a post on the anniversary celebration here.

Diggin’ the Dan

tdwktm01You’ve probably seen those “I MAY BE OLD, BUT I’VE SEEN ALL THE GOOD BANDS!” T-shirts. I’m pretty sure I could get away with wearing one but I won’t for two big reasons. One is the implication that “all the good bands” have come and gone which is just not true. There are good bands emerging every day and I intend to see some of them, too. The second reason is that, even if I limit the field to bands of my g-g-g-generation, there were plenty I missed and that includes, even though I quote them, The Who. I also missed The Doors, Cream, and, until last Tuesday, Steely Dan. That’s when they opened the main leg of their “Dan Who Knew Too Much” tour at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center. Sure, it wasn’t the Skunk Baxter, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder Steely Dan. That particular good band has indeed come and gone. But the thirteen piece that Fagan and Becker fronted down by the river was for darn sure another good band and one that I did get to see.

swrb02swrb01swrb03Back in the day I also missed the The Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, and Traffic and I got to make up for just a little bit of that on Tuesday, too. Steve Winwood, a member of all those groups, opened the show and managed to work in tunes from all three as well as from his solo career. He delivered most of those songs from behind his Hammond B-3 but occasionally stepped out to put his considerable guitar skills to use. It’s hard to imagine a better way to get this show started.

tdwktm03tdwktm02As you’d expect, Donald Fagan did most of the Steely Dan lead vocals with Walter Becker taking over for Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More and the three female backup singers doing an outstanding round-robin job on Dirty Work. Those female voices were an important part of the mix throughout the concert.

tdwktm04A four piece horn section was another key part of getting close to that “just like the record” sound. Jon Herington handled most of the lead guitar work with Becker playing behind him. But Becker did get his licks in here and there including some sterling solo work in Josie. Fagan stood to play melodica (I think) on a couple of songs but stayed at the electric piano most of the night. Behind him, Jim Beard took care of a lot of the keyboard work. Bassist Freddie Washington and drummer Keith Carlock complete the band.

tdwktm05For me, Carlock was a surprise bonus. I’d done no homework for the concert and had never heard of Keith Carlock although he has played with Steely Dan since 2003 and has plenty of other impressive credits, too. My time as a mediocre drummer helps me recognize good ones. I was impressed immediately and in awe after just a few songs. My take is that he plays with the finesse of a jazz drummer (think Buddy Rich) and the power of a rock drummer (think Max Weinberg) and that’s pretty much what Steely Dan needs.

I learned a little about Carlock at breakfast the next day. Half Day Cafe is a great breakfast spot that I manage to reach a few times each year. I don’t know why I picked Wednesday for one of those times but I did and it makes a fine morning after story.

I walked in and sat at the counter. Behind it three employees were chatting and laughing but quickly stopped and turned their attention to me. “Don’t let me ruin the punchline”, I joked. They laughed and one said, “Oh, we were just talking about the concert.” She pointed to the employees on either side and explained, “They went to see Steely Dan last night:” Of course I said “Me too” and got back “So did they” with a motion toward the couple in a booth behind me. The exchange of random memories — all positive — was on.

One of the concert attendees was a Cafe server who is also a drummer in a successful local band. He is a long time Keith Carlock fan and filled me in on some of Carlock’s history. The cafe owner was not at Tuesday’s show but had seen the band multiple times in the past and contributed memories of earlier Steely Dan concerts. Spontaneous fan club meetings are the best.

Trip Peek #38
Trip #100
Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail

This picture is from my 2011 Hail, Hail Rock w/o Rail trip. Yes, that’s a pretty goofy name but I can explain. In May of 2011, I went to Saint Louis, Missouri, to see Chuck Berry and called the trip, Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll. My original plans for this trip were to ride a train to Washington, DC, to see two concerts. Calling it Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Rail seemed quite clever. But, less than two days before the scheduled departure, the train was canceled. I saved the trip by driving but, in the flurry of rearrangements, the best I could do for the title was replace “‘n'” with “w/o” which isn’t very clever at all. I saw Dirk Hamilton (pictured) and Josh Hisle (opening for Stephen Stills) in concert plus Fort McHenry, Ocean City, museums, diners, and colorful fall foliage. As I said in a trip postlude. “…everything was perfect for a train ride except the train.”

The trip was my 100th so I did a blog post to mark the occasion and reflect a bit on previous journeys. This Trip Peek is being posted following trip 135.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Music Review
Touch and Go
Dirk Hamilton

tagdh_cvrIn my view, the last few weeks have been a truly awesome time for new music. A new Willie Nile CD arrived with a few days left in March then, with April barely a week old, this delightful disk appeared. Dirk and Willie share more than an appreciative fan in Ohio and neighboring CD release dates. Both were touched by fame near the three-quarter mark of the last century and both ran away from the business of music for a few years. But both came back because musicians can’t stay away from music and songwriters can’t keep from writing songs.

Thirteen Dirk Hamilton written songs make up Touch and Go. Most are new but not all. “Build a Submarine” first appeared on 1990’s Too Tired to Sleep.  “The Only Thing that Matters” was on 1995’s Yep!. One of the new songs is something Dirk says he started writing in 1971 and finally finished in 2014. I heard that song, “For the Love of a Lady”, live in October of 2014. In my description of that concert I say that Dirk did three songs for the first time in front of an audience but I couldn’t remember any of the names. This was obviously one. I believe the others were “Head on a Neck” and “Mister Moreno” since I recognize both and both appear for the first time on this album.

Touch and Go owes its existence to a chance meeting with a long time fan. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Rob Laufer introduced himself to Dirk at a California house concert and explained that he had been a fan since the 1970s. One thing led to another and this Laufer produced album is the result.

It seems things started with Dirk recording a couple of songs in Laufer’s studio and Laufer subsequently “producing” “Gladiola” by adding several tracks to Dirk’s voice, guitar, and harmonica. In an interview on KPFA radio (available here) Hamilton says he was initially a little uncomfortable with the process as he is used to doing things live in the studio with the band but eventually decided that he liked the sound. I’m glad he did. Yes, magic can sometimes happen when musicians are recorded as a group with each feeding on the playing of the others and that simply can’t happen here but it’s sometimes only a possibility anyway. Rob Laufer is an excellent player as well as producer and he has constructed some really solid underpinnings for Dirk’s tunes. The organ on “Head on a Neck” and the guitar work on “Gladiola” and “Cheers to the Heart” are particularly nice.

“Cheers to the Heart” is a driving rocker and my current favorite tune on the CD. On my first listen the the album, it was somewhere in the middle of this song that I was struck with the thought that it would be right at home on one of the 1970s albums that made me a Dirk Hamilton fan. With that in mind, subsequent listens revealed that this was true of several other tunes on Touch and Go. The voice has aged but it has done so nicely and there are melodies just as well crafted and lyrics just as meaningful as those earlier offerings. Maybe it helps that Laufer is familiar with and an admirer of those early albums. He makes Dirk sound like Dirk.

What Hamilton calls the most important song on the album closes it. “Mister Moreno” was inspired by the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings and Dirk says performing it can sometimes be a real challenge because of the emotions it brings to the surface. Dirk’s lyrics can sometimes be abstract and sometimes openly playful but they are almost always insightful and thought provoking. Sometimes they are crystal clear as are these lines from “Mister Moreno”:

Politicians talk of peace, dining with gunrunners in the plaza
Sharing photos of their families and the missiles they are selling down in Gaza.

Another thing that has remained constant and is reminiscent of the early days is Hamilton’s caring and concern for this planet. That concern is clearly present in several tracks on Touch and Go but it seems a little more accessible than it has been lately and that just might be because of Laufer’s contributions. Dirk and Rob make a good team. Hope they do it again.

Buy this and other Dirk Hamilton CDs here.

Rock ‘n’ Rail Redux

pic01cThe train was canceled on my first attempt to ride the rails to DC for a concert and on the second attempt it was hours late. This time it was just right and I’m in the nation’s capital ready to see Willie Nile and his band perform their new album. I’m just a little late for the cherry blossoms and the weather doesn’t look all that promising but I hope to get to look around the mall a little bit before show time.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to provide a place for comments.

Music Review
World War Willie
Willie Nile

wwwillie_cvrI’ve been a serious Willie Nile fan for barely two years or something like 5% of his career. I feel bad about that. I know I missed a lot and assumed that I’d missed him at his peak. World War Willie makes that assumption laughable.

I’ve told elsewhere how I remembered 1980’s “Vagabond Moon” only after his 2013 road trip anthem, “American Ride”, caught my ear and how I was subsequently blown away seeing him live in February of 2014. I can’t say for certain that Willie, who is just a little over a year younger than me, is as energetic on stage as he once was but it’s possible. Are the shows I’ve seen as good as the ones I’ve missed? How do performances of the most recent two years compare to those that came before? I can’t know that but I do know that they are outstanding and compare most favorably with some great past concerts that I didn’t miss.

While it is impossible to go back to attend those missed shows, it is quite possible to listen to music created in the past and I did that eagerly. There were no disappointments. Earlier Willie Nile albums held up well when compared to American Ride and vice versa.

The first new Willie Nile product to be released following my conversion was 2014’s If I Was a River. It was a delight but different. It was mostly solo and acoustic and maybe the sort of album that fools like me think of an aging rocker doing as he slows down but Willie wasn’t slowing down at all. The piano was his first instrument and he told writer Peter Gerstenzang that he had “…wanted to do an all-piano album for a number of years”.  He also told Gerstenzang that, “I’m gonna make a full-on rockin’ album with my band for the next release.” And so he has.

The new album rocks as hard as Places I Have Never Been or Streets of New York or any of the other previous Willie Nile offerings. As guitarist Poppa Chubby says, in one of the first outside things I read about World War Willie, “There’s not a single down moment on this record.” What there is is eleven new songs and one cover. There is serious stuff like “”Let’s All Come Together” and fun stuff like the title track and “Grandpa Rocks”. And of course there is serious stuff disguised as fun stuff like “Citibank Nile”. The lone cover is Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” which Nile has frequently played live and on which he has put his own stamp.

Great characters populate great songs. Folks in my age bracket might identify with the subject of “Grandpa Rocks” whose “hair what’s left grows down to his socks” and who wears a “‘been there’ grin”. I feel like the line “He ain’t afraid of dyin’ he just likes bein’ alive” fits perfectly. The “Runaway Girl” is “a two-dream girl in a one-horse town”. The album’s most disturbing character appears in what is currently my favorite song in the collection. With “fire in her eyes and a pint between her thighs” the young girl in “Trouble Down in Diamond Town” is clearly set on self destruction. The song’s slightly syncopated three shots mark some of the most efficient and effective use of drumsticks this side of the opening of the Eagles’ “Hotel California”.

Drummer Alex Alexander provides a lot more than three shots. Neither he nor bassist Johnny Pisano are ever intrusive but focusing on either will reveal some truly impressive work that both supports the tunes and drives them forward. One time Eagle Steuart Smith contributes guitar to a couple of tracks including the Levon Helm tribute “When Levon Sings”. However most of the album’s guitar work comes from band regular Matt Hogan and that includes some mighty nice slide playing on the bluesy “Citybank Nile”.

“Grandpa Rocks” ends with the spoken words “Where’s my cane? Who are these people?Get offa my cloud.” It’s natural to think that Grandpa is Willie and that those words come from the real Willie Nile. However just a little thought is all that’s required to see that that simply can’t be true. Everybody’s welcome on Willie’s cloud. Climb aboard and listen up.

A Pre-Refurb Peek at Music Hall

cmhmn01At the end of this year’s May Festival, Cincinnati’s Music Hall will close for extensive renovations. The Cincinnati icon, which first opened in 1878, will open again in the fall of 2017. I knew I ought to attend at least one more performance there before the closing and working in part of the May Festival has been in the back of my mind. A number of things lined up Friday that made attending the first night of the MusicNOW Festival possible and attractive. I may still try to make it back for the May Festival but the pressure is off and I had a most enjoyable evening.

MusicNow, the brainchild of Bryce Dessner of The National, was first held in 2005. Although The National was formed after he moved to New York, Bryce is a Cincinnati native and frequently involved with the city’s music. An Australian tour prevented him from attending this year’s festival but one of his compositions opened Friday’s concert and another was premiered on Saturday.

cmhmn02cmhmn03With about an hour to go, the lobby was pretty empty and I grabbed a couple of pictures. There are a number of large chandeliers in the building with one of the most impressive hanging in the center of the lobby..

cmhmn06cmhmn05cmhmn04I used some of the extra time to head upstairs. On the second floor, I snapped pictures of the upper level of the lobby and the balcony of the main concert space, Springer Auditorium. The third photo is of the Springer Auditorium Gallery. The seats in the foreground are about where I sat to watch Big Brother and the Holding Company in October 1968. This was the performance that was paused while Janis and the band watched the Beatles on the Smothers Brothers Show.

I believe that 1968 show was my first at Music Hall. Many, wildly diverse, have followed. If Big Brother is at one end of the range, Andrés Segovia might be at the other. He was solo and acoustic when I saw him in 1982. So was Bruce Springsteen in 1996. But Bruce was 47; Segovia nearly 90. That little old man and that little old guitar on the big old stage remains one of my most memorable concerts and a great demonstration of the wonderful acoustics of that big old space. There were numerous Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts that included a variety of soloists; several performances of the Nutcracker ballet; the Kinks; John (not yet Mellencamp) Cougar; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and others I’ve temporarily forgotten. But my purpose in going to Friday’s show was not to trigger old memories. I wanted to firm up my impressions of the building in anticipation of next year’s changes. It was standing at the back wall of the Gallery and looking at the distant stage that prompted the most ancient memories then not-quite-as-ancient memories just followed.

cmhmn07My seat was a last minute pay-what-you-want bargain. From the left side of the second row the visuals consisted largely of orchestra member’s ankles and partially obscured profiles of featured performers but the audio was fantastic. The Kronos Quartet performed first followed by violinist Jennifer Koh with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. After an intermission, the quartet and orchestra performed together. Mandolinist Chris Thile closed the show. He performed, like Segovia and Springsteen, solo and he even stepped in front of the mic to do a couple of songs completely acoustic. Not suprisingly, it sounded great from a few yards away but I almost bolted from my seat to see if he reached the rear of the audtorium as well as Segovia had. I didn’t. I wish I had.

cmhmn08The Cincinnati Opera has put together a rather nice Music Hall Renovation FAQ in which they specifically mention that “The large chandelier in the auditorium will be restored.” I don’t know if that means the others will not be but it does raise the question. I hope that’s not the case although if only one can be saved, this is certainly the right one.