It is a strange summer for rock tours. While many of the summer’s standard favorites are taking the year off, ostensibly due to the terrorist situation, there are still a few groups who are braving the hassles at the borders, airports and truck stops. Tonight’s featured package tour at the DTE proved that not only is the heart of rock and roll still beating, it is in a healthier state than in many years past.
Working the evening backwards, the night ended with the 2K2 version of Jefferson Starship featuring original members Marty Balin and Paul Kantner along with a who’s-who of San Francisco rock royalty. The set list was beautifully predictable, lots of the old with a smattering of the new, and every number done with power and perfection save the occasional monitor squeals that had the band members covering their ears. “Somebody to Love” was easily the tightest tune tossed at the audience of 10,000. The duo of Marty Balin and the beautiful heir to Grace Slick, Diana Mangano, gave the songs and the evening in general as much or more juice than any version of the storied group previously assembled.
Ray Manzarek played and sang a half hour’s worth of Doors numbers between Jefferson Starship and Vanilla Fudge which was interesting to see and incited at least a dozen “Jim’s alive” cat calls. “Light my Fire” seemed to be the highpoint of Manzarek’s set with each of the other Doors classics their own special treat. If nothing else it was a small preview of the Doors “reunion” that is scheduled for latter in the year.
For as entertaining as Manzarek and Jefferson Starship were to be, the cream of this crop came to the stage early and in the full light of day. Vanilla Fudge simply melted with the audience for an hour during which so much progressive hard rock and soul territory was crossed that you would need a road map to find your way back. This was musical bliss beyond all else and easily the set of the summer at the DTE. If audience/group synergy ever existed it was here and now with this hour of Vanilla Fudge. Each breath of air was split to its basic elements by the metal cum funk guitar chords of Vince Martell. A more moving and soulful shredder may not exist in all of classic rock. If Martell blew the air apart, it was the incomparable rhythm section of Carmine Appice and T. M. Stevens that recombined the elements to make something even more conductive to Martell’s electricity. “Shotgun” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” were more like hard rock mantras than any mere rehashing of a hit song. The progressive power-funk of these two tracks alone could have carried the set, but then there was also the incredible four way harmonies of “People Get Ready, The Rolling Rock of ‘Ain’t That Peculiar” and the post disco fuzz of “Do You Think I’m Sexy” to jump, jive and shout along to. All along the way keyboardist/vocalist Bill Pascale rocked his Hammond organ to near collapse, a wonderful sight to behold especially since the retirement of Deep Purple’s Jon Lord.
As strange as it may sound, the most impressive number of the night was a cover of “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” This track is set to be the group’s first single from their forthcoming disc and it is absolutely the most perfect thing that they have ever done. The arrangement is unstoppably catchy but as heavy as anything out today. To hear this track live and to have enjoyed it so much carried with it a bit of guilt, knowing its Boy-Band origin and all, but hell I can live with a thousand times the guilt for a song done this well.
So, Vanilla Fudge owned the evening while Jefferson Starship chased a rabbit down a hole and Ray Manzarek rocked, rolled and remembered and that is about as filling an evening of music that anyone could hope for in these troubled times, or in any other for that matter!