Results tagged ‘ Rays Concert ’

Train Took Us on a Perfect Musical Trip

From the moment the Train whistle first made its echo throughout Tropicana Field, until Train lead singer Pat Monohan’s last gracious words of gratitude towards the loud assembly of Tropicana Field back-up singers who collectively started swinging and swaying right in tune with Train’s first offering, “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” and didn’t stop even as the band made their exit stage right.

I hope the Rays and their fans take it as an ultimate compliment that the band “wanted” to come back and play after a game, possibly setting the stage last night for possibly the Rays concert conductor to post them again in the future. I love it when I hear gushing compliments from the musical acts, and last night I heard the same kind of vibes I have overheard from LL Cool J and ZZ Top who also made return engagements within the Trop. this season.

And Train not only delivered with gusto last night, they might be the one band I have seen during the entire Rays Concert Series who had such a great time up on the stage performing post-game as there were miles and miles of smiles from ear-to-ear from every member of the band from the first note, to the last. That kind of excitement and good vibrations does rub off on the assembled masses, and they were noisy, singing every verse and looking like a sea of humanity from my perch in the front of the stage for the first 3 songs.

A lot of that has to be the great music that blasted out from the stage, but you can not discount for a moment the charismatic and appealing vocals of Monahan who once played in a Led Zeppelin cover band before becoming a firm grounding point and vocal reference for this band from the San Francisco bay area. From their long time classics “Drops of Jupiter”, “Meet Virgina”, “Calling All Angels” to their new found classic tunes “Marry Me”, Save Me San Francisco”, “Hey Soul Sister” and their last offering “Drive By”.

As you can tell, I am a Train fan, but I was not an adamant Train listener until their first trip through Tropicana Field back in 2010 when Monahan did an impromptu race around the Trop turf with Rays Security in pursuit to protect Pat from his overly-zealous fans. But that is another of things I found appealing from this band, spontaneous decisions based on the vibe and music, possibly ending with a stroll around the outfield.

I can bet I’m not the only one hoping to see Train again in 2 years or so because this band definitely delivers a true and hearty meal of beats and tunes with a perfect mixture of past and present from their first self-titled album “Train” back in 1998 to their latest “California 37”. Some band tend to phone in their older classics, but Monahan and crew puts on a stellar show on that small Rays stage that ultimately make you want to hear them again, possibly on the drive home just to revisit the whole fantastic experience. How many days until Train returns again to embrace us all with their music?

Here is my public access Flickr Photostream with all of the Train concerts photos

LL Cool J Charmed The Trop

Renegade Note: I apologize for this blog not getting its fair share of views on Sunday through today. For some reason my Laptop is not smarter than me and did not read my mind and push “Publish” as I wanted. Just goes to show you technology is only as smart as the guy who is pushing the keys down.

 I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt last night’s Tampa Bay Rays concert artist LL Cool J knocked out Mommas, Pappas and maybe even a few Baby bears with his classic tunes. I truly felt like time pressed backwards with the first beats from the turntable and I found myself again in the early days of Hip Hop watching someone live tonight who’s tunes and tales blared not only back in those younger days through my own car’s speakers, but still finds play time even today.

 Heck, “Going back to Cali” and “Mama Said Knock You Out” are still on my travel I-pod tunes list because even today it can get me to press that accelerator a bit, possibly bringing out the bad boy in me (which is not hard to to do). I was standing there is the photo pit eager to get a shot of the longtime Hip Hop marvel, but I got mesmerized by the beats coming from the turntable and almost forgot what I was there for. But that is what great music does to you, it transforms you out of your comfort zone and into a state of harmonious bliss.

 From the moment LL Cool J hit the stage until his final note, this was one concert if you loved early Hip Hop and its root artist you truly did not want to miss. It was a perfect mix of old and new tunes with some special moments, especially for a few lucky fans. I was up front for his first venture into Tropicana Field complete with roses and smiles for the ladies, heck got trampled when he threw one just behind me and the massive army of arms went for the delicate flower.

 LL Cool J fans have always known the laid-back singer/ actor to be cool, calm and a bit of a charmer, but who in their right mind would have guessed he would actually take the glistening lollipop charm from around his neck and pluck it into the sea of eager hands and into the fingertips of one lucky soul. LL Cool J took the gold chain from around his neck complete with a lollipop charm designed by Mrs J (Simone I. Smith) and flicked it into the crowd on the right side of the stage. I know you want to know more about this charm, so here we go….

 The fashion statement in question was actually a part of her “ A Sweet Touch of Hope” collection that she created with the help of The American Cancer Society. Simone, a cancer survivor herself created this stylish lollipop charm in crystal and jeweled enamel in the 12 birthstone colors. Simone’s collection also includes earrings and bracelets, but on this night…it was all about the lollipop. I am not sure which of her awesome designs was around her husband’s neck on that faithful day, but here is a link to her website in case you also would love to have a lollipop, bracelet or buy something to support the American Cancer Society in California.

 It was wild early evening as LL Cool J began to wind down his concert, and in that period of time I saw an old Fraternity brother and ex-roommate who would have been dancing and grooving physically to the beats if not for him wearing his uniform. He came over to me and was adamantly excited to see someone on stage we both listened to in our cars back then, and who was about in our age bracket, but still performing like he did all those years ago.


It was one of those nostalgic moments you wanted to be thrust upon you so you could remember a day when music had not only a message, but artists who put it all out there within the boundaries and crosses so many cultural boundaries with their message and beats. I remember seeing LL Cool J as he was seated in the gold cart and about to be escorted across the AstroTurf of the Trop. backstage to a Meet and Greet session. He just tilted his head and gave me a nod again showing me he was as cool a cat on the stage as he was in real life. Can’t wait until he comes back again….Maybe in 2016?

LL Cool J Concert Photo Portfolio

 

From Bummer to a Blast in 60 Seconds…Pure Avril

Avril Lavigne definitely picked the right song to start off her Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert appearance, her upbeat and timely “What The Hel*” was the perfect song to start out what would be a unique and escalating Rays post game concert experience.

With stage hands frantically assembling, plugging and barking orders even moments before the Sk8tr Goddess hit the small stage you got the feeling this was going to be a high energy, dance producing moment, then someone or something decided a microphone monkey wrench had to be inserted into the whole sha-bang. During her first number Lavigne’s portable mic was anything but cooperative, and suddenly Lavigne bopped her way off stage.

The crowd was instanly stunned, and taken totally a- back, but immediately you could see frantic stagehands trying to get the mic situation done pronto. In the background you could see the angst growing on Lavigne’s face as she spoke to her handlers and concert personnel trying to figure out “What The Hel*”.

After several minutes of calming energy Lavigne reappeared smiling, enthusiastic the silence in her concert was defeated, she started out by letting out a impromptu, four-letter word Sk8tr sermon to the assembled masses that must have had a few Rays executives gasping. Still, it was the release of built up emotional garbage and hostility that needed to be exorcised for this show to explode and take us with it.

Lavigne then started sans her band in an a Capella rendition of “What The Hel*” that conquered the stress, angst and even submerged any bummer feeling among the Rays turf crowd. It was an amazing arrangement, plus really showed off that the actress, perfume and clothing maven was definitely not a one trick pony, or needed heavy musical background noise to hide any vocal deficiencies. This Gurl could wail with the best of them.

From that moment on this concert went into a non-stop ride of bouncing in place in unison with the punk rock princess, crowd participation sing-a-longs and watching the Trop’s roof bouncing up and down a few times. Suddenly you could see the crowd feed energy to Lavigne and she returned the favor in spades. This concert definitely went from a rocky summit to a thrill ride inducing encore featuring Lavigne’s smash “Complicated” and there was not a seatbelt in sight.

I was excited beforehand to see what Sean Daly the  local St. Petersburg Times music critic announced was the “One of the Best Rays Concert signing to date” Lavigne had us from her Ceremonial first pitch when the petite Lavigne threw to Rays giant ( 6′ 8”) Reliever Adam Russell and delivered a pitch across both our and the plate’s heart. From the neon green strands in her blond tresses to her splattered paint neon green motocross boots, she not only fit the Sk8tr motif to a “T”, she was their anointed punk Queen.

The song “What The Hel*” is still ringing in my ear. Not the band induced sampling, but that dramatic and unexpected solo offering that showed so much more of this singer’s talent, creativity and down right untapped reservoir of angst energy.

Would I turn down a moment watching a prime example of the type of girl guys like me chased when Motocross, Rat Bikes and skateboarding was in its infant stages….She was the bomb-digitty in her black and neon. Would I stand waiting for her to return on stage again…. You bet your life, in a New York minute . Some musical artists you love for things you can’t explain, or do not want to divulge to friends or family. Lavigne is that kind of artist to me. She reminded me of simpler times when song, energy and sticking to your guns with your style was paramount.



In essence, she made me want to be a Skatr boi all over again. But this time with cooler hair. Only bummer of the concert ( besides the obvious) was the fact the Rays stage was too small for a piano so we could see another dimension of Avril unfold in person. “What The Hel*”, I guess life really is a bit “Complicated” after all.

 Avril Lavigne Flickr Photostream

 

 

 

Rucker Couldn’t Get Us a Win, But He Did Put Melody in Our Soul

Been a big fan of Darius Rucker for quite some time. Sure I was a guy who sang his Hootie and the Blowfish hits in my car in my younger years, but I also have become a instant fan of his switch from Rock to Country, especially with his twist towards incorporating some of his personal life into his tunes.

So when the Tampa Bay Rays announced this April that Rucker had been added to the Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series, I was one happy dude. A nice double-dipper of a bonus was that Rucker would be onstage less than 24 hours after celebrating his own birthday ( 45th) where he did a private concert and workshop on Clearwater Beach, Florida on Friday evening in the company of young aspiring singers and musicians. Then you have the added personal cravat for me that he was performing on my birthday, and was a definite “win-win” scenario in my book.

Got to tell you, if 18 holes of golf makes you as energetic and enthusiastic as Rucker on stage that night, I am heading out to get    some DVD’s and learn how to monster the club head through the zone myself. Rucker had a glow about him on stage on Saturday  night that immediately spoke to me.

 From his first tune “Love Will Do That” from his latest Country album “Charleston 1966” to his last vocal note of the night, it felt just like sitting in a corner tavern with a friend on the mike singing his heart out…But that is how true music should hit us…right between the ventricles.

And Rucker’s music did hit that spot with a passion. All from a guy who possibly had a late night Birthday celebration, threw out the Ceremonial First Pitch, plus sang the National Anthem all before hitting the post-game stage and again making us swoon to and fro to his music.

My personal favorite of the night was “Southern State of Mind“. Mostly because every word in that little ditty was so true towards people square pegging people from this region of the country.

Ironically enough, when I took my coast-to-coast trip, I honestly mistakenly ordered “Sweet Tea” in Arizona and the waitress brought me tea and a huge sugar dispenser. Then while in San Francisco, I did hold the door open for a woman and she glared at me. Sorry, but manners do still run in my family.

From his up-beat song “Alright” to the more dramatic marriage tale ” I Got Nothin’“, it was a night exploring all thing Rucker, with a few visits from his alter-ego “Hootie”.

Got to admit I was happy to again hear ” Let Her Cry” from his Blowfish days, plus a special rendition of the Steve Miller classic “The Joker“, it felt totally like a bunch of friends just sitting around enjoying great music that night.

I let the horror of another loss slip from me as Rucker bellowed out his number 1 Country hit ” Comeback Song” with its catchy segments and great words to letting it all go as he sang “History in The Making” that echoes my own life is so many ways.

It was another great concert offering from the Rays, a great spokesman for their Country Night, and the perfect artist on stage singing his heart out for the assembled fans. Got me wondering after the show when we will see Rucker again in this region as the guy seems to always have a show here every 6 months or so….I think I better reserve my ticket now because I always love a good Southern song told by a great storyteller like Rucker.


Nothin’ But a Good Time with Bret Michaels

 

 

Saturday evening way before the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Seattle Mariners, the Rays Republic saw the resurging brilliance of a man who has waged his fair share of War in the battlefields of Rock and Roll and come out better for the journey. At a time when most ex-hair band lead singers are lounging somewhere else resting on their follicle ladened 1980’s laurels, sitting in isolation while continuous residual checks op into their mailboxes, this guy is still loving the Rock Star lifestyle one stanza at a time.

 

Men and women all over this big blue marble have lived vicariously through this rock icon’s adventures for a long time starting with his first exposure to the vice and decay of the rock and roll lifestyle that can chew you up and spit you out as candy while getting his first taste of this sweet as the front man for the iconic glam metal band Poison.


 

Here is a guy who has sold out tons of venues like Tropicana Field as both a solo act and as a lead singer, but he was doing something we all wanted to do before the game…He was throwing in front of the Rays dugout with Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos, and tossing a mighty fine and tight fastball. The guy who could do almost anything just wanted to throw some soft toss, then get ready to pop the top off Tropicana Field with a slew of cover songs and songs we all know by heart.


 
Pat Manfredo

That is one of the things that makes all of us want to meet or take a photo with the guy. He is one of the most genuinely honest and down to earth guys in Rock and Roll, and he made time to toss a few fastballs, then sign a few autographs before heading to his hidden suite just to the left of the Rays Press Box.

 
Pat Manfredo

Even when he gave an A Capella rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame that will surely be posted on Youtube soon, It was all Bret Michaels as we have come to know this hometown guy from Butler, Pennsylvania. If he wasn’t a rock legend and icon, he would be that troubadour possibly playing in a neighborhood tavern cranking out his original tunes and filling the place during the weekend.


 

And if it wasn’t for the huge stage and the megawatts of surging heat and power from the banks of amplifiers and gear, you almost felt like it was a small time guy doing a show for his 30,000+ friends and family that shuffled into the Trop. Even before Michaels hit the stage I was down talking with his drummer ( Chuck Vanslau ) before Michaels hit’s the stage for his Rays /Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series action.



 

I remarked to Vanslau that I had seen Michaels perform a few years ago at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida as a solo act right after his second “Rock of Love adventure and was excited to see how the show had progressed. Vanslau remarked that ” I should pop my seatbelt on and get in a comfortable position because, this plane was going to fly high, fast and leave no prisoners”.


 

And that is exactly the way this show took off from Michaels first note. It got into a sweet and fats climb as Michaels visited some of his Poison past by starting off with “Talk Dirty to Me“, then proceeding to “Look What The Cat Dragged In that was full of energy and strutting around the stage that made Michaels one of the greatest front men in the glam metal era. Both songs were pushed to the limits by Michaels vocals and the pulse set high and furious by Vanslau, Pete Evick (lead guitar) and Rays Schering (bass guitar).


 

Just as the fever was beginning to climb, Michaels next went into the Southern Anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The rendition by Michaels honored the Southern classic and was met with arousing banter of singing from the assembled crowd with their glittered wristbands high in the air holding cellphone and recording the moment. Always a stirring moment when you see people using their cellphones as imitation lighters in the air to signal their approval for a song.


 

Michaels then brought it back a bit with the songs “Go That Farfrom his fourth solos album Rock My World andSomething To Believe Infrom Poison’s “Flesh & Blood album released in June 1990 that gave the now sweating crowd a few moments to collect themselves and soothe out with a few ballads before Michaels was to again take crowd on another ride in his 13 song set.


 

Immediately after “Something To Believe In“, Michaels again raised the stakes by taking a few moments to thank the crowd for the well wishes and note Michaels has received over the past months, then got quickly into propelling the rhythm sky high again by doing “Unskinny Bop and raising the crowd vocal responses and dancing to a top tier again. Michaels then injected the audience with his newest single, “Nothing To Lose that brought the energy level down a notch but still had that flowing and cohesive meandering stream that is all Bret Michaels.


 

The song was from his just released “Custom Built” solo album and again had cell pones and the crowd swaying both in the stadium and down near the stage in great unison. And just when you thought it was safe to stay within that gentle flow, Michaels again hits another cover, this time turning the classic Loggins & Messina song “Your Mama Don’t Dance, And Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll” to a whole different level by throwing in a little bit of Michaels spice and herbs to enhance the classic and make it his own.



 

Then Michaels showing a little raspy sound to his voice took a short breather while Vanslau did a great drum solos and again Michaels, who stayed on stage just beyond the lights gathering in the energy Vanslau was producing and went straight into another great cover of the Sublime song “What I Got” which is also on his “Custom Built” album and his version tonight produced some of the greatest guitar licks of the night from Evick and Schering and proved once and for all that a great front man like Michaels can take any classic song and turn it into his own.


 

And just as you were coming up for a gulp of air after singing another great song, Michaels let you not only get a fast breather, but pulled out his acoustic guitar and did his greatest song, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorns” that had most of the stadium singing along with Michaels again and taking another huge visit down memory lane. This is definitely one of those iconic songs that everyone has attached someone to, or have an emotional attachment to, and Michaels again had the afterglow of a sea of cellphone screens beckoning his voice high into the rafters.


 

Michaels then started his last ascent into the high energy mode of his concert by thrusting out another vintage Michaels moment when he reached back into the archives for “Fallen Angel” from Poison’s second album “Open Up and Say…Ahh!“, then Michaels pulled the show into a last frenzied moment with the always popular and always thumping Poison song ” Nothin’ But A Good Time” also from the May 1988 “Open Up And Say…Ahh!” album.

 

This last song put the crowd over the top emotionally and you could see that Michaels and the assembled crowd by the stage were both spent reliving some of the great moments of all over lives in this concert. As Michaels was summing up the night on stage, he let the crowd know he would love to come back again in 2011 and do it all again. This statement brought up a thunderous applause from the crowd and you know more than a few Rays executives might just take him up on that in 2011.

 

As the crowd moved towards the Trop’s exits, Michaels stayed behind the Rays stage talking and meeting some of the assembled people backstage. But that was not the end of his night. Michaels ended his night the same way he began it before the 7:10 start on Saturday night.

 

After so many of the crowd had left the turf of the Trop, Michaels made his way back between the barricades that sat between the Rays dugout and the back end of the clay infield and again donned a glove and threw a last few pitches before Michaels and his band had to head to the airport for a flight to New York.

 

Ahhh, the life of a Rock Star, jetting from city to city being admired by millions, adored by men and women alike and the last thing you wanted to do before leaving Tropicana Field was throw a baseball around again. Bret, I became a fan all over again just by that moment.


 

Post Script:


After posting this blog post, before the Rays Sunday afternoon game, a member of the Rays brought me a gift down to my seat on the Rightfield corner. I did not open it immediately, but when I did, it totally shocked me that inside was a custom designed Rays hat from Team Diva, who also designs Bret Michaels headgear. I had remarked earlier in the year to someone in the front office that maybe we could get a custom made Cowboy hat for Michaels to wear on stage.

 

 By the way, look up to the picture of Michaels singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame“, does the Cowboy hat on his head look familiar at all? Instead, I wore the custom made Cowboy hat from the third to eighth inning of the Rays game. It is a cherished possession now adorned in blue sharpie with Bret Michaels autograph. I have to paraphrase Michaels and tell you, “It don’t get better than this!”

 
 

Country Twang rings True Up at the Trop

 


 

 It was back in 1997 when I moved to the Florida Panhandle up within spitting distance of the Alabama border that I got to have my first huge meal of Country music and began to savor as a symbolic method of expression of my Southern heritage. I had been that rock guy who moved to this region of the state sometimes known as the “Redneck Riviera” and expreienced firsthand the music and the lifestyle usually shown only on videos. Some people call it “simple music”, but I consider it the purest form of musical expression we have in our American culture. Sure we developed and introduced the world to rock and roll, but Country brought rock its soul way before
Elvis used his pelvis to swoon the Nation.

 

 And maybe I was either lucky or just the timing was right as Country music then was transforming itself towards certain rock and roll roots and left some of its traditional sights and sounds to embark in another direction. It was the sunrise of artists like Garth Brooks, Lonestar and Clint Black that gave me my Country foundation, and I ate it up like a slab of pork ribs kissed by the essence of tasty rubs and smoke. I had begun a musical transition that stays with me even today. But when I got my first nibble of Country at the Billy Bowlegs Festival in Destin, Florida, it had me hook,line and sinker from that moment.


 

And Dierks Bentley has been high on my list of budding Country artists every since his debut album, and the hit “What Was I Thinking” hit the Country Billboard charts. But Bentley is also one of those artists that can transcend the usual “Country” streotypes and provides a show that is high energy and also riddled with greats songs and musical influences from Bluegrass to bona fide old Country licks like the twang of the steel guitar and high notes of the banjo. Bentley is one of the new genratioin of Country artists that embraced the move towards the mainstream, but also remembers his roots with passion and enthusiasm. Bentley definitely took the Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series to a new high level of grand old music that makes the hips sway.





 

But I got to tell you, he showed us some of his new stuff off his recent “Up on the Ridge” album release, which has more sounds based within the guidelines of Bluegrass than your usual Country, and I am going to my local store today to buy that CD, because it was an amazing slice of Tennesse-based Americana, and I am hungry to hear more of it. Not sure why, but I like to hear the banjo and ther steel guitar struming loud and proud from the stage. And mixed with the charisma and musical charms of Bentley on Saturday night, it almost became intoxicating to my senses. To say I had a great time would be taking something great from the experience. It was that proverbial “blast of the past” for me, and we all know how the Renegade loves nostalgia.

 


 

And as usual for me, I went totally bananas taking over 500+ photos of the concert thyen spent the last two days in my moment away from the Trop trying to figure out which one were worthy and which needed to be trashed. So I popped in Bentley’s first self titled album “Dierks Bentley” and began the hard task of trying to bring the best to the surface, but the music kept interrupting the flow as I began to sing along with some of the great sounds parading from the computer speakers. It had in me in sucxh a lather I had to click on my ITunes desktop icon and download a few more traks to add to the musical mix of selecting photos for this blog entry.

 


 

I began to again live the performances in my mind as a deleted and edited photo after photo while listening to the energy of “Feel that Fire” or the slow beats of “Settle for a Slowdown.” With every beat coming from that stereo system I was again loving stands inb the crowd at Tropicana Field enjoying Bentley’s music bouncing off the white fabric and making it way down to my ears. It was surely one of the best concerts of this season, and maybe in the Top 5 of the always evolving Rays Concert series. And with banter and charm of Bentley made the crowd intense and totally in the moment with him as he went from song to song with great transitions and amazing vocals. 

 

 


 

This was definitely another Rays Concert event that made me glad the Rays have instituted these concerts into their Saturday night lineup and has be already excited and anxious for Barenaked Ladies. The band people, not the club. But in all seriousness, tonight’s concert was the best Country offering by the Rays since Trace Adkins ushered in the first musical Country night two years ago. Doesn’t seem like that long ago, but the music and the Rays games have seemed to flow togewther in perfect harmony and rhythm since their inception.
 

 

 

 

 
 

There was Nothing “Cheap” about ZZ Top

 
Saturday Night after the Rays Republic had to endure the Tampa Bay Rays second loss in a row, the air within Tropicana Field quickly became charged and energized knowing that within a few minutes a recent inducted member band of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would be taking the stage and tranforming Tropicana field into a bluesy West Texas dive bar/Rock and Roll palace for the next few hours.

Transforming the Rays playing field into a makeshift concert venue, it was instantly apparent by the LED video screen attached to the back of the stage area that we would get a light show with our musical meal. And believe me, the crowd was ready for a sampling of everything that ZZ Top was going to put on out plates last night, including a few nice tidbits from their past, their musical influences, and most of all their long and deep list of classic tunes we all still rock out to in our cars while driving towards Tropicana Field for Rays games.

But little did the Tropicana field crowd know that within seconds of the Rays dimming the lights inside the Trop, we would all get a instant re-education in why these 3 Texans will always have a place deep within our hearts when it comes to classic Rock and roll music with a distinctive blues flare. From the totally wild and elaborate ZZ Top drums stand, to the video replays of their classic video clips on the stage-wide LED screen behind the band that showed classic black and white photos and color imposed video clips all throughout the concert bringing a swirling bit of musical and visual imagery that was intoxicating to say the least.  The trip that the band was going to take us on tonight was going to be an epic visual and audio snack that we would all savor and relish long after the last note was played tonight.

For I know personally I spent many a day in the weight rooms during both High School and College lifting weights and doing stretching exercises to the deep pumping of the bass and the isolation of the electric guitar rhythms to get me into a pattern of working hard and producing a great sweat. And even listening to them tonight I got an instant flashback to those days, and I truly can tell you, the music sounds the same now as it did so long ago. 

For if the trio of Dusty Hill, Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank beard were concocting a recipe up on that stage last night, it was based purely on the simple ingredients that has made them VH-1’s  44th “Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”. From hitting us with the big tastes of “La Grange” and “Sleeping Bag”, to playing a homage to their departed friend Jimi Hendrix, the rocking never stopped and the crowd was singing from the very first verse.

And even if the furry guitars did not get to do a 360 degree turn tonight on stage, the presence of such history making instruments sent the crowd into a loud ovation of approval to the band. And you could tell by the interaction of Gibbons and Hill that these two guys still love their job and do it not only for the nice rewards it brings, but enjoy playing the music and hearing the crowds still. Sometimes that is rare in a group that has been around since February 1970.

And even during all of that 40 years of music, Gibbons still can tell the tale with his voice and make his electric guitar sing like a little school girl. Here is the same band that was inducted into the

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by none other than Rolling Stones own guitar legend Keith Richards. To say that Gibbons is not the premier blues guitarist is like saying Evan Longoria is just another Third Baseman. The best always makes sure to let their soul show in their music. 

And Hill surely is still one of the better bass guitarist of his era and still sports that mean looking beard of his own with pride and joy. But I was amazed that he seemed to have gotten a bit smaller with age, or maybe it is because this is the closest I have even been to this trio in person, and I was totally in the moment watching all three create some great music last night. But the chemistry that still seems to flow between the two of them up front and center on the stage is remarkable to see in person. And the pure fact that both Gibbons and Hill are having a ball on stage performing for us was not lost on the crowd that kept it’s cheering loud and proud by singing right along with the band and the multitudes that were dancing  on the turf of the Trop just shows how universal ZZ Top’s music is to this region.

Got to admit to you, I had a woman clearly in her 60’s standing next to me for most of the concert who was so into the music and the moment she was not afraid to thrust and elbow or twenty my direction as I was snapping photos. She even proclaimed at one point I was ” bumming her out” because I was not also hooting and hollering at the top of my lungs like she was tonight.I know she surely had a blast standing up front near the band swaying and crooning to every single tune the band played, even the slow ones. 

The night however did seem to slip away from us, but still seemed too early to stop the music, dancing and remembering the moments and times that once co-existed within each of our lives surrounding these hits. Most of us hoped and wished for more music, another tune or two as the band made their way to their 4 Tour buses parked just outside the dome. But ZZ Top did not disappoint a single person tonight, even throwing down their signature bow-legged shuffle during one song.

The night air was very humid outside the Trop when we all finally left the cool confines and hot tunes still lingering inside the stadium.  Our ears still ringing with the sounds and the rhythms from all the ZZ Top classic songs played on this night.  I suddenly felt like a sharp dressed man, or had a feeling for some Route 66 magic.

ZZ Top truly came out on stage tonight and served up one of the tastiest musical meals to us even with some morsels I had never even heard on the radio before tonight. In the end, it was another great show nput together by the Rays Front Office (BK) to entice and make us all want to come back for some more real soon. With Rap artist Nelly coming to the Trop next Saturday, May 15th, I can surely tell you in all honesty I am hungry and ready for another fine helping of musical delights served up by the Rays/Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series. Can’t wait to dig in again for more good music and fun.


Giving the Rays Some ZZ Top Lovin’

 

With Texas Rockers ZZ Top set to perform after the Tampa Bay Rays play the Kansas City Royals tonight, it only seemed appropriate that maybe I should try and pair up a few of the Rays players with some classic ZZ Top songs. Every once in a while it is fun to just take a moment out and sit back and relax and either poke fun or show the respect I have for this Rays team and their stable of workhorse style players.

I could have rambled towards a posting of Kentucky Derby hopeful candidates that currently play for the Rays, but we already know that coming in one-two in that race might be the sprinter Carl Crawford and the long strides of B J Upton neck and neck at the wire. Honestly might come down to if CC has a forward neck bob at the moment he hit’s the finish line. But it only seemed fitting that I take a few names and personalities off the Rays roster and give them a one-night only ZZ Top song. I can tell you that I-Tunes is going to love me today with this research.



Raysonthe Runway

Sharp Dressed Man:


Now this one might seem like a pretty self explanatory song choice for Rays fashion plate and G Q model in residence slugger Carlos Pena. But I actually have two Rays figures in this choice. The first is of course Pena who has been the fashion sensible member of the Rays since day one. But my other selection might fool a few people, but he is trying with what he’s got, and for that I got to give Rays Television announcer Brian Anderson an Honorable Mention in this song choice.

Anderson might not have the fashion runway swagger of Carlos Pena, or even the handsome looks that make more than a few women faint, but Anderson is a budding fashion police poster child who seems to get better with every road trip. Maybe Pena is secretly taking Anderson out on road trips and getting him a new tie or stylish sports coat or tie to go with his daily ensemble on the Rays broadcasts. No matter what the true story is, we all know Pena is the true fashionista on the Rays roster, but Anderson might be raiding his closet if Pena is not careful…maybe.


 
Raysbaseball.com/ MLB.com

Gimme All Your Lovin’:

I got to go classic tongue-in-cheek here and give this royally down to Rays All-Star and female heartthrob Evan Longoria. For during the last Rays road trip while the team was in Boston for a 4-game series, Longoria made the Boston papers with complaint letters that he was sending multiple texts to a unique collective group of women in the Beantown area. What was so amazing is that people somehow seemed a bit shocked about all of this.

I do not see how this could be a surprise to anyone. Major League Baseball players get handed cellphone numbers and even room keys all the time for prospective romantic interludes, but most disregard them as “groupies” or even trouble waiting to happen. But the fact that is totally humorous is that these same women had Longo’s digits in their cellphones, so they can not play as innocent either here as they might have had conversation with Longoria either before they met their current squeezes, or during their courtship.

Either way, it really has just up the ante and further advanced the mystic and allure of Longoria to women from coast-to-coast. So the next time your “significant other” gets a text message that she either smiles at or giggles like a schoolgirl, just ask her point blank is it from Longoria. It probably is not, but you never know, some guys might think it was an ultimate compliment if Longo was texting his girl….Not me, but there might be someone like that out there in the Rays Republic.


 
RRCollection

Legs:

This actually might have been the easiest song to place with a Rays player basically because I seem to smile and chuckle every time I see him attempt an extra base or turn the corner for a try at a triple during a Rays contest. Carl Crawford has streamlined his glide around the base paths over the last several years to provide more energy and push to accelerate his speed within a few strides. But still when he rounds the First Base bag and he seems to be leaning at a 45 degree angle and chugging those arms back and forth, his legs always seems to come out in my photos as magical blurs or looking like time lapse photography.

So it was a perfect choice to include Crawford’s name as the player associated with “Legs”. And even if this song ultimately illustrates a love for the female form, I hope Crawford can take that I am using a bit of literary license here to portray this song towards his burst of speed and not the way his lower lips seems to drag like a English Bulldog when he is pumping towards an extra base. And I want to apologize in print if you read the lyrics to the second verse and think I am referring to Crawford with hair down to his fanny….I am not….Seriously ( My Grey’s Anatomy voice)….Seriously!

 
RRCollection

Cheap Sunglasses:

You might think this would be a natural for Rays Manager Joe Maddon, but I have another victim, I mean choice for this classic ZZ Top tune. To me this song screams out Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza. Maybe it is just me, but Garza sporting that James Shields T-shirt during his side Bullpen session yesterday showed me that he is ultimately the “Too hip for school” guy on this team. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Garza has always had that persona to me. The one where he seems to display and cool and clam demeanor under that bundle of emotions and inner frustration sometimes with himself on the mound. He usually can wear those cheap sunglasses as a outer shield to keep him from actually showing his highly charged confidence and emotions. But then again, Tom Cruise pulled it off with the same pair of cheap sunglasses in “Risky Business” and it turned him into a movie superstar. Maybe Garza can turn his cheap sunglasses into a Cy Young?

 
Rob Carr/ AP

Blue Jeans Blues:


I am not sure why this next one seems to fit just by the title of the song, but I see Rays fifth starter Wade Davis as the perfect poster child for this song. Maybe it is that outer shell he has that eludes most strife and controversy as he seems to glide through his starts even against some of the opposing teams top pitchers. Davis has provided some interesting performances already in 2010, and has been totally in control and often times kind of in his own personal zone of tranquility while attempting to provide pitching brilliance so early in 2010.

And I am not trying to play on his nickname “W D-40″ to provide some raw angle of southern gentleman meets ferocious beast, but the guy is from Lake Wales, Florida and is as calm as a cucumber and soft-spoken as they come. But then again, when things are clicking like they are right now for Davis, there is nothing to worry about anyways….really.

 
Steve Nesius/ AP

Got Me Under Pressure:

For some reason I think this song actually could apply for most of this Rays team this season. Sure I could of thrown this out as a Rafael Soriano selection based mostly on his new role as the Rays closer, but in actuality, I think this entire Rays roster is feeling the pressure this season. Most of them know that this might be the last season that this collective body of players get a chance to revisit or remove some of the pain and feeling of not completing the task at hand that still lurks within some of their minds from 2008.

It might be the last time Crawford, Pena and even Dioner Navarro and possibly Jason Bartlett all hit the field at the same time to try and right a situation that seemed to melt them apart like the cold weather on that unusual October night. Maybe it is the mantra adopted by Maddon for 2010 that no longer uses mathematical situations, but asks the simple question: ” WIN or What’s Important Now”. Maybe it is that urgency of completing the mission, of finally breathing a sigh of relief that will act as the whistle from this pressure cooker called the MLB season.

ZZ Top is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member. They got their start just like so many other musicians did struggling in the small bars and honky tonks in the Texas landscape. But their telling of the stories and the message in their lyrics, they got the rest of the country to not only experience a bit of Texas, but of their own personal cultures and rituals.

But hopefully in the next several months the Rays can duplicate the success and get the admiration of the rest of the Major League Baseball world to again see them for the hardworking and diligent team that they are….And maybe after it is all said and done, the Rays could actually shadow another ZZ Top song as a team.

 
Chris O’Meara/ AP

For if the Rays hit that desired pinnacle they seek so dearly in 2010. If this Rays team can climb that last rung of the ladder and stand proudly at the top with a golden trophy in their mitts, then maybe they can all collectively sing “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” on the pitching mound as they shower each other with praise, champagne and memories just like ZZ Top has given all of us over their long career.

Got to go people. Got a small errand to do since I am getting Photo Credentials to shoot the ZZ Top Concert tonight. And yes, tomorrow will be a ZZ Top post Concert Photo blog. See you later Gator…

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