(Photo by Lady T (aka Teresa Calhoun). Used by permission.)
The morning of Friday, August 3rd, it was raining. (Shocking! Raining in the Pacific Northwest!) Although not an uncommon occurrence in our neck of the woods, it didn’t bode well for the evening’s excitement, which was a trip to Portland, Oregon, to see one of my favorite recording artists of all time, Adam Ant, in concert—outside!
By 2:00 P.M., Mariah (“The Boss”) and I jumped in the car, swung by Aunt Teresa’s house to grab her, and we all hit the freeway. Traffic going into Portland was surprising light, and even though we’d hit a spot of drizzle on the freeway, by 3:30 P.M., as we were pulling into the parking lot at the Oregon Zoo, the sky was starting to clear and old Mr. Sun made an appearance. (I immediately started to burn…)
The doors to the amphitheater weren’t set to open until 5:00 P.M., but our concert tickets allowed us free entry to the zoo, so we decided to see some of the sights. (I’m partial to the art, and a bit less partial to “feeding time” for the condors. Not a big “carcass” guy.)
I am partial to the bats, however.
(Photo by Mariah Yates. Used with permission.)
Eventually (after walking until I was burned to a crisp and dripping with perspiration—I’m a bit out of shape), it was time to get in line for the show. The audience was a mixed bag (although I saw quite a lot of gray hair—and not just on MY head.) Still, the tone was friendly, and you could tell we were all there to have a good time. Once the “doors” were opened, the line moved quickly, and we ran towards the grass and threw down our blanket. (The grass was maybe just a bit damp, but not too bad at all.)
It’s a great venue. The stage is good sized, the layout is tapered so that the folks in back are up high enough to see over the heads of the folks in front, and there are lots of food and drink vendors all over the place. Teresa rented a chair (they had to be “short” chairs), but Mariah and I just sat on the ground.
At about 7:00 P.M. (almost on the dot) The Fixx came on, starting with “Red Skies.” (No messing around.) The music sounded great, well mixed, and the crowd immediately jumped up and started singing along. Mariah and I were particularly impressed with the vocals, which were very strong. Cy Curnin sounds JUST like he did in 1980, and they played a fantastic selection of well-known cuts, which the entire crowd sang along with. “Saved by Zero,” and “Secret Separation,” “Are We Ourselves,” and a few others, ending with “One Thing Leads to Another.” It was a wonderful set, and my only complaint would be that they didn’t play long enough!
After The Fixx finished, Teresa decided to head down to the “pit,” so she could elbow her way to the front. (It’s what she says she’s done every time she’s seen Adam. This was her third time! If the photographs she took are any indication, she was standing directly in front of Adam himself.) Mariah and I, less ambitious, stayed with the blanket. After a short interlude, in which the gear was moved around on stage, Adam and his band appeared! I am a 30+ year fan of Adam Ant, and this was my first time seeing him live, so I was pretty excited…
We were pretty far back, so the view wasn’t super—lots of people’s backs, and as per usually, everyone in front of us felt compelled to get up and dance… (I’m old and broken, particularly my bad knees, which I destroyed as a skateboarder when I was a teenager—so I usually sit.)
Still, the music was great. The sound at the Zoo’s amphitheater was excellent. In addition, Adam’s band was fantastic. He had two different drummers, two guitar players (three when Adam grabbed a guitar and played along), and a very strong bass player. Oddly, there were no horns, even though many MANY of Mr. Ant’s biggest hits had heavy horns… (Too much alliteration?) The wall of sound, which was nice and heavy, made up for the missing brass, and the songs that they played were perfectly recognizable, even with just guitar, bass, and drums.
The tunes in the setlist were perfect. This was one stop in the “Anthems” tour, and these were definitely some of Adam’s strongest and most enjoyable songs. Interestingly, he also played some B-Sides, which were cool to hear. (For those “youngsters” in the audience, music singles used to be released on 7” records with the main song, the likely “HIT,” on the A-Side, and sometimes a non-album track on the flip side, the B-Side…) It was absolutely DELIGHTFUL to hear “Young Parisians” played live, as this has been one of my favorite Adam cuts since I was a little New Waver, and according to what he said at the show, it was one of the songs on the first single that he ever released. The band played a number of songs from the early, Adam and the Ants albums, several of his BIGGIES from, like, Friend or Foe, Strip, and Vive Le Rock, as well as a few tunes from the post-80’s work. It was a fantastic mix.
Adam was also quite funny, occasionally stopping to make a joke or share an anecdote, and he kept the crowd entertained and moving throughout. My aunt, Teresa, said it was the best concert that she’d ever been to, and I believe she was being sincere.
I hate to be negative about the show at all, because it was a great time, but I do have to say that Adam’s vocals were pretty rough. He seemed to be having a hard time hitting or sustaining his notes, and for anyone who’s heard Adam Ant’s music, the vocals on his songs are VERY dynamic, climbing to piercing highs, chanting in faux-Native American style war whoops, and really jumping around—and Adam just couldn’t quite produce those sounds at this show. It almost sounded like it was painful for him to try to sustain anything above a speaking range, and he chanted or sang-spoke a lot of lines that had been sung on the albums. It’s possible that his “more mature” vocal cords just can’t keep up with the materials he wrote when he was still a teenager, or he might have just overdone it over the last few concerts, but whatever the cause, both Mariah and I felt like he was having a tough time singing throughout the show. This is not to say that the concert was bad, because it wasn’t, it was just a bit distressing hearing him struggle.
Anyway, as the concert chugged along, and everyone danced, the sun set and the amphitheater starting to come alive, visually speaking.
Adam’s stage show, which was impressive from the beginning, became shockingly good as the sky grew darker. Below are a few photos that I snapped during his encore, which will hopefully demonstrate just how cool the show was!
Visually, the Oregon Zoo’s concert venue was spectacular. The sound for both bands was exceptional (and I’ve seen a lot of shows ranging from acoustically perfect to complete mud, and this one was definitely in the upper ranges of great!) Mariah and I both liked the layout and the mood of the place, and food was pretty good. The bands were both fantastic, and it was a treat to hear some of my favorite “oldies” (sorry, folks, but this was an oldies tour) in a great venue. We are already looking forward to the next concert season, and we’re going to make a point of checking the Zoo’s schedule for next summer to see who’ll be appearing at the amphitheater. It was definitely a great time. AND, another plus, it didn’t even take THAT long to get out of the parking lot once the show was over. So if you’re in the Northwest and thinking about checking out a show, the Oregon Zoo gets the Primitive Seal of Approval!!! (Although, sadly, Billy Idol is ALREADY sold out! Bummer…)
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!