Hmm, it’s hard to pick a favorite but one album in particular has certainly been influential in my life. The first real concert I attended was to see the Stray Cats at the Baltimore Civic Center, circa 1982. I was 6 or so and my mom dressed me up like a little greaser in jeans and a white undershirt, I even had my hair slicked back. Looking back it was an amazing show, I remember the bass player standing on his upright while playing! I was too young to realize what I was seeing, though. Fast Forward a few years to the late 80’s and my second real concert, Rush at the very same Baltimore Civic Center. The show was to be the first time I was completely blown away by a performance. I was in the 8th grade and a drummer friend, Chip Frohlich, wanted someone to go to the show with him. I really didn’t know much about the band so I borrowed the one Rush cassette my sister owned to give it a listen, a live album called Exit Stage…Left. I didn’t immediately fall in love, Geddy has kind of a weird voice, but I thought it was cool for sure. The third track, an instrumental entitled “YYZ,” particularly caught my attention. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was hearing, but it was fast and raw and just simply balls-out playing. My mom dropped us off out front of the civic center, now 1st Mariner Arena, and we walked into a mass of folk you just don’t see anywhere else. There were grits and stoners, old hippies and dorks, a really odd cross section of people. We found our seats and immediately experienced another first, the smell of pot smoke! It was honestly all a bit frightening, being a sheltered kid from the county and all. The opening band was Mr. Big, a little too close to hair metal for my tastes, but they could play at least.
But then it was time for Rush. The arena became pitch black and the place erupted in human noise. There was a vibe in the air I had never felt before, all those different, strange people had a common bond. These people loved this band with their whole being, this was for real. Any anxiety I was feeling completely went away and I witnessed what was the most influential concert of my life. Three men made all of that sound, I couldn’t believe it! The lead singer was the bass player!! And he’s also the keyboard player!!! Then the drum solo, what?!!!! I simply didn’t know a person could make these sounds with these instruments and so cohesively in perfectly synchronized works of sonic art.
Then it was over, I was sad to see it end but fully satisfied with the experience. The crowd was still cheering, though, and it was getting louder. My friend tells me that the band usually comes out for an encore, so I let myself get a bit excited. I could sort of see some milling about on stage but wasn’t sure. Then all of a sudden the drummer starts playing a rhythm on the cymbal, HOLY SHIT!! it’s YYZ!!! Pure instrumental perfection being played live right in front of me, with close-ups of the musicians’ hands projected onto the giant screen behind the stage! It was just too much, we walked out to the waiting family wagon and hopped in with
ears ringing and just simply high on life.
Needles to say,Exit Stage…Left became my favorite album. I never did give my sister her tape back, in fact I wore it out to a warbling mess. When I got my first cd player about a year later, the first album I bought was Rush-Exit Stage…Left.
The Keef is the world's greatest bass player in the world.
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