By Brian Ives
Tuesday (May 3) at New York’s Irving Plaza, concert promotion powerhouse Live Nation staged their second annual National Concert Day event. It’s essentially Live Nation’s “Upfront” for the summer concert season, where artists across all genres — who are going on Live Nation promoted tours — chat with the press and also perform.
Cheap Trick, Joan Jett, Dierks Bentley and Wiz Khalifa all took the stage playing mini-sets of their most well-known songs. Khalifa was joined by surprise guest Snoop Dogg – with whom he’s co-headlining a tour this summer.
Before the performances, Radio.com spoke with some of the big names who will be on the road this summer. All of them spoke about the importance of seeing live music, and the impact that concerts made on their lives.
Newly minted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Robin Zander of Cheap Trick recalled his first concert: “I went to see the Beach Boys at Harlem High School, it was so cool, it affected me in a good way.” He didn’t waste much time figuring out what he wanted to do with his life: “At 12 years old, I already had a band and I was out playing.”
Cheap Trick will co-headline a summer tour with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Heart this summer. He’s looking forward to spending the summer with old friends: “I’ve known Joannie since she was a young teenager, I saw her at a place called Waverly Beach Ballroom, in Wisconsin, she was with the Runaways at that time. They were on their first tour. And I’ve known Ann and Nancy for a long, long time. My duet with Ann, ‘Surrender to Me,’ was a top 5 song from the film Tequila Sunrise.
Any chance they’ll perform the song? “No, I don’t think so. Unless she asks me!” Ann Wilson, the ball’s in your court!
Will there be any other jamming? “We might… backstage! They all know that they’re always welcome to come and play with us!”
AWOLNation’s Aaron Bruno recalls his first concert: “My first show was Sting at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. I was 12, he played a lot of Police songs, it was great.”
He notes that he still goes to concert as a fan: “I saw Weezer at the Troubadour the other day, I’ve always loved them. I’m going to see the Refused on their tour. I saw them before The Shape of Punk to Come back in the day! I was 18.”
Discussing his summer tour, he says, “The record has been out for a minute now, so I feel like it’ll be just one big celebration of music, and people will be singing along to every song, and we’ll be playing several songs that we’ve never played before. I just feel that we’re really good now. I think we’ll play more of the album cuts, not just singles.”
On the subject of live music, he says: “I think in a day and age where everybody is relying on their phone, I encourage people to put their phone down and experience the real thing [music].”
Simon Kirke is the drummer from legendary British band Bad Company, who will be hitting the road this summer with Joe Walsh. His first show? “It was the Hollies, the Dave Clark Five and the Swingin’ Bluejeans. I was about sixteen. Three very English bands. The Hollies were a great band, every one of them was an amazing instrumentalist, and they had more hits in England than the Beatles, at the time.”
Regarding touring with Walsh, he said, “I played with him in the Ringo Starr [All-Starr] band. [Singer] Paul Rodgers and myself talked about going out on the road this summer to promote our new live album, [Live in Concert 1977 & 1979] and then we cast around for someone to co-headline with us. My manager knows Joe very well, so we gave him a call and we’re very lucky.”
Rob Thomas (his first concert was Genesis, Invisible Touch tour) has headlined huge concerts as the frontman of Matchbox Twenty, but this summer he’s co-headlining as a solo artist with Counting Crows.
“I’ve been friends with those guys for like, twenty years,” he tells Radio.com. “And we’ve never done a tour together. Me and [frontman] Adam [Duritz] are tight, but we’ve only played two shows together, and they were both radio festivals. So this just seemed like it made a lot of sense. I choose my tours partially based on: who do I want to spend my summer with? I want to spend the time that I’m not playing, watching the other band. I want to be a fan, and watch from the side of the stage with my wife. Counting Crows has twenty years of songs that I love. There’s just not going to be a bad night.”
Slipknot is touring with Marilyn Manson on the must-see metal tour of the summer. It’s not the first time they’ve hit the road together. “In 2001 we did the Ozzfest together,” frontman Corey Taylor recalls. “We were both at very points in our lives at that time. We were young, we were both nuts. So there were a lot of crazy, crazy nights that I don’t honestly remember… but I have weird recurring nightmares about!”
Surely there must be some great stories from that summer: “One story I can tell you is, we were getting ready to go on stage, and went on before him, and all of the sudden the door to our dressing room bursts open and here he comes, dancing in, but nothing but tighty whiteys, the tightest Fruit-Of-The-Looms that you’ll ever see. And he just dances by, ‘What’s up boys?’ He goes right through an open door which led to where the public was.”
That sounds like something you can never un-see. “Unfortunately you cannot. But he was great, that was a great tour!”
Taylor headlines huge shows with both Slipknot and Stone Sour, and is also becoming more popular as a solo acoustic act. But he still makes it a point to go see other performers in concert: “It’s the experience, man. You can’t feel emotion in an mp3, there’s no danger in an mp3. The great thing about a live show is: you don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re either into it or you’re not, and that kind of splits up the casual listener from the lifer like myself. Lifers like me, we go to every venue, we go to every show we can, and just have fun with it.”
He says that on stage, artists can’t hide behind studio trickery: “People can tell when you’re really good, when you’re not hiding behind ProTools and things like that. When you see a band that’s really really good, it’s a great feeling.”
He raved about the most recent concert he attended: “Dude, I just went to see Lionel Richie the other night. he was f—ing amazing, his band was a motherf—er! They played everything! They were doing ‘Dancing on the Ceiling,’ and out of nowhere, they went into Van Halen ‘Jump!’ I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding!’ He was so good, he was funny, he was an entertainer. He’s a rare breed, man.” And it’s a side of him you’ll probably only see if you go to his concert.