What’s a good day at BillyRocksPhilly? How about this: lounging at a lovely South Florida beach during the day, temperatures in the mid-80s, water temp of 79, plenty of sun, people watching and reading. Then up the road to Delray Beach for dinner with friends at Johnnie Brown’s. Finally, concluding with a classic rock concert featuring Bad Company and Joe Walsh. Not bad, huh?
Let’s not linger on the beach except to say that it’s terrific and I’m sorry you weren’t there with us. Here are some pictures that are much more eloquent that me:
If you haven’t been to Delray before, it’s a fun beach town that has a nice strip of bars, restaurants and shops on Atlantic Avenue. Delray has enough of a buzz for the Wall Street Journal to have done a “what to do in 48 hours” story on it. It’s got a healthy crowd, but it’s not overrun like South Beach. And Johnnie Brown’s is an open air, very casual burger and beer kind of place with live music going 7 days a week. We ate Mahi salads/sandwiches and burgers, listened as the two guys pictured below played credible versions of songs by Skynyrd, Mellencamp, and the Eagles, and had a fun and relaxed dinner as the trade winds blew through.
On to the Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach for the main event. Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre, nice name, perfect for Florida. The PVA is like many other indoor/outdoor amphitheatres that have sprung up around the country. There is a large covered pavilion area with permanent (and small) seats, and abutting it to the rear is a lawn area for those that want to lounge around on blankets. It holds 19,000 people. If you’ve ever been to the BBT Center in Camden, this is very similar.
In fact, it’s so similar to Camden that they charge you $12.50 for a large beer, $20 to park, and have two lousy non-high def screens on either side of the stage where most people watch the show. It reminded me of Camden, too, in that there was only one cameraman who shot the show, meaning that you got one view and panned with the cameraman as he went from performer to performer on stage. Given that they charge you about $70 on average or so to get into the pavilion, well, that just smacks me as cheap. I assume that millions flowed through the coffers that night; it’s time that the owners ponied up some money to make the event a better experience for everyone beyond the first 15 or 20 rows.
One very positive thing about the PVA are the acoustics. They are really good, which is not always the case with an outdoor show. You could understand every word that was said and the music was mixed really well. Very good job on that. And another great thing about the PVA is that it is not in Camden. Only the Philly area could take the perfectly good idea of an indoor/outdoor pavilion arena and plop it into a slum.
Let’s talk size now. Haha, I know what you were thinking, but that’s not what I had in mind. I had been to two other shows last week, both in clubs, and the intimacy of those experiences was altogether lacking at the PVA. Not that the PVA was without its charms. Rather than being up close with the performers, we experienced those in the crowd who happened to sit close to us. And this crowd was about what you would expect given the bill: baby boomers, having fun, graying but grooving and dancing, and more than a few putting on lifestyle tie-dye hippie clothes that they keep behind the corporate wardrobes in their closets. You know what I mean, right? Peace, love, and a BMW.
How about the bands? I loved Bad Company in my youth, and saw them at the Capital Centre in Maryland on a double-bill with the Outlaws. Great show, but that was … 39 years ago. Ugh. Anyway, Paul Rodgers still has a great voice, and the band supplemented its musicians with a younger guitarist who handled the more difficult guitar riffs. The band sounded great and rolled through their hits (well, most of them, see below). The crowd was happy. They also used some 70s rock arena tricks like dry-ice smoke, lasers and the like. Those were amusing. I liked Bad Company, but …. they played for a grand total of 70 minutes. Wait, what, really? I guess that they feel like guys in their 60s shouldn’t have to play longer than it takes for them to get into their cars, drive to the bank and cash the paycheck. It would have been more acceptable had they played all of their best songs, but they didn’t play “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad,” “Rock Steady,” “Deal With The Preacher,” “Runnin’ With The Pack,” etc. What they did play, astoundingly, was a cover of the Beatles “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Hahaha, yup, that’s what I wanted Bad Company to play. How did they know that when I purchased my Bad Company/Joe Walsh ticket that what I was really jonesing for was Beatlemania?
On to Joe Walsh. Let’s get this out there right now: Joe doesn’t have the strongest singing voice out there. But he was smart enough to bring along a sizeable band (two drummers, another guitarist, bassist and two keyboardists) plus 4 backup singers. They formed a really solid band. And Joe played all his hits, from the James Gang (“Funk 49”, “Rocky Mountain Way,” “Walk Away”), to his solo career (“Life’s Been Good”, “In The City”) and songs with the Eagles (“Life in the Fast Lane,” “Take it to the Limit”). The crowd was happy, and the band was tight. Joe played about an hour and a half, which is better than Bad Co, but whoop de damn do. And he used the big movie screen behind him liberally. Sometimes the effect was cool, like during “Take it to the Limit” (which was sung by a backup singer with a great voice) where he used video of a guy in a bird suit flying fast in the Alps, and sometimes the effect was WTF, like video of atomic explosions and all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.
All in all, the show was enjoyable, the day beautiful, and the company was fun. It was a good South Florida day. Below are some pictures from the show. The one that says “Bad Company” in the background show the relative size of the screen to the performers from our seats – and this was taken with the zoom lense - wow! And check out that dry ice smoke!! The first three pics are of Bad Company and the last two of Joe Walsh.
I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. On to Wilco!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.