I've seen a lot of great bands live in the past--David Bowie, Lou Reed, U2, Neil Young, The Frames, The Pixies, David Byrne, Pavement, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Police--the list could go on and on. I'll never forget my first time experiencing "live" music--and that was at CLUB MTV LIVE.
It was the summer of 1989. I was enjoying being 12 years old and eagerly anticipating the beginning of my junior high years. Summers of swimming, Capri Suns and Nintendo Power magazines (and their expensive helpline) blended together with memories of staying up late, eating Mike 'N Ikes and chugging Mountain Dew. This particular summer would bring the mighty troubled behemoth that was the Club MTV Live Tour to Arco Arena in Sacramento, and thanks to some primo tickets set up by a friend's folks (one of which worked for PG&E and thus the hook up), we found ourselves knee-deep in pop synth-rock heaven. Semi-mirroring the format of the popular(?) show of the same name on the network that used to show music videos, the tour was hosted by curly-haired, fedora-wearing Downtown Julie Brown, who had me at "Wubba wubba wubba."
DOWNTOWN JULIE BROWN, seen here in front of a cheap Keith Herring knock-off, or the opening credits of In Living Colour.
The show started with what may have been the only ACTUAL musical chops on the bill:
WAS (NOT WAS)
Don Was, frontman and primary musical talent in Was (Not Was), has carved out quite a career producing records for the likes of Carly Simon, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, and yes, Hootie and the Blowfish. But his band may best be remembered for that catchy ode to reptilian exercise, "Walk the Dinosaur." Ahhh...who could forget those lazy afternoons, when we would all get together and open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur. Oh...and I almost forgot...Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom.
Not to be outdone, next on the bill was:
After all these years, I still remember one detail of their set vividly. The lead singer, Kurt Harland, made a big deal out of "everyone thinks everything is pre-recorded. But we're not!" and then we were treated to a rousing electronic drumkit solo. Fear not, they did indeed play "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)" and "Walking Away."
Harland's comment makes oh-so-much more sense now, considering the band following was:
Let us not talk ill of Rob and Fab. Pure showmen, they simply BROUGHT IT. Sure, what they brought was pre-recorded droning dance rock with a great probability of skipping, but they brought it nonetheless. Plus, one "lucky" audience member was serenaded on a conveniently-placed park bench onstage during the stirring ballad "Girl, I'm Gonna Miss You." Not a dry eye in the house. And when they decided to toss blame at the sky's precipitation, the place went ape-shit.
In a similar vein, next up was the bat-shit craziness of:
Seen here with superior musician/better-grounded animated feline MC Skat Kat, Ms. Abdul tore into "Cold Hearted Snake" at the top of the set, and then proceeded to bring out an onstage changing-curtain for a quick wardrobe switcheroo. She delighted the audience with her "quick" wit, asking for a volunteer to help her change, only to revoke said offer with hilarious quip "psyche!" Boy was I in stitches! STITCHES, I tells ya!
Closing out the evening of audio bliss was the Wild Thing himself:
Yes, that's his YO! MTV RAPS Rookie card. Man, the Beckett value of that thing has to be well into the dollar. The Club MTV'ers saved the best for last, combining coolness with product endorsement, with the Locster appearing out of a giant Corona bottle. After the dizziness from such an audacious entrance subsided, the crowd was whipped into a frenzy again after Tone took the momentum (as well as our hearts) into his hand, prompting one half of the audience to say "Bull" and the other half to say "Shit", alternating between them and creating quite an interactive Electric company compound word moment that we would all never forget. And after reminding us one final time that hey, you two, he was once like you, and he liked to do the wild thing, Loc disappeared into that giant cerveza container, taking with him our undying love and respect.
And that, as they say, was that. It was over. A night of highs...and lower highs. Sorry, Genesis. Your "You Can't Dance" Tour will just have to settle for concert #2. For nothing will ever replace...CLUB MTV LIVE.