The First Live Gig


Volume #232

I was so excited to see my first rock concert at age 14. I’d been seeing photo’s of my rock hero’s in magazines for years playing live on stage. You’d listen to a live album, hear the crowd and the song you know so well but hearing it played live it was different, there was an energy and when you looked at that still photo it only told part of the story. Up till that first live gig, my favorite bands were just orchestrated still photo’s smiling back at me from record jackets to the albums I was listening too. I finally saw a video of my favorite band playing live around 1981 but even this had interruptions for interviews so it wasn’t close to the full live show experience. I can’t believe my mother agreed to it but in the winter of 1982 she said I could go to a live show in Toronto with a school buddy. It was his first show too and he wanted to see Ozzy Osborne. If my mom had access to the internet back then and knew anything at all about this guy she would have said no. That doesn’t even begin to explain how she let us take a thing called “The Party Bus” to Toronto to see this show.  I know I just told her it was a package price, ticket and bus, which it was so that was no lie but being on that bus was an eye opener. Open beer, smoking joints, nudity, it was a ruckus loud party of late teens, none of which we knew.  In the middle of it all were these two 14-year-old kids in sheer disbelief of what we were experiencing.  This was never the type of environment I was comfortable in so I was ever so relieved to make it to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and exit that bus. It didn’t occur to me at the time these same teens would be even drunker or higher on the return trip in a few hours, that’s another story.  For me however seeing a building I only knew for hockey being turned into a music arena was thrilling. I was just as excited to see how the rigging above the stage was hanging from the roof to create grid to suspend lights and speakers from. The opening band was a local group called Santers so in reality that was my first live show though I didn’t know it at the time since we bought our Ozzy tickets.


I was not a huge fan of either band, I just wanted to see a live rock show. Being in the dark with 18 thousand other screaming fans watching the stage bathed in coloured lights and hearing the music so loud, I was hooked after that first gig. I took the party bus a couple more times with more of my own friends so it didn’t feel quite so crazy till finally one of us had a license this was our only way to the show. None of our parents were going to drive us to Toronto, sit around for a few hours waiting then drive us home and none of them were ever going to buy a ticket to see the show. I’d have loved to see my Dad at a Rush concert but that wasn’t ever going to happen.  In fact, the only live shows I ever saw with my dad featured Scottish Pipe and Drum bands.  One when I was 10 even had the Queen in attendance along with 50000 other spectators. I came from a town of about 15000 residents so it was odd to think everyone in my town and the surrounding towns could be in this stadium at once. I was also excited to see this show just for the pageantry of it all. These big pipe bands all dressed to the nines in kilts with big fur hats marching in perfect time into the stadium as they played. What I wasn’t so up on was the music which after awhile all pretty much sounded the same to me. No doubt the same observation my dad would have said about  what I liked to listen to.  There were a couple songs that stood out however like “Amazing Grace” or the rather new “Mull of Kintyre” which Dad pointed out to me was written by a Beatle. He said it like that because I don’t think he actually knew which one of the Beatles wrote it but he heard that fun fact somewhere or read it in the program.


Even before Kate got to attend her first big time concert of Taylor Swift last summer with her mom in tow Emma has been asking to be allowed to see a live show.  She has friends that were allowed to see acts like Justin Bieber when they were 7 or 8. I think that had a lot more to do with the age of the mom that was taking her daughter then her friends wanting to go but regardless they had already been to their first show.  If Emma is anything she is one that wants to keep pace with everyone around her and not miss any new experience.  She was even begging me if she could go to the Rush show I had tickets too last summer. She doesn’t like their music at all, she just wants to get that first concert notch on her belt at any cost which I totally could relate too. Kate was only weeks away from turning 12 last summer when she got to go her her first show so that was the precedent we as her parents had set. She’d already asked if she could go to the Selma Gomez show this spring but we pointed to her age and said, “Kate was 12”.  This is not a show JoAnn or I was all too interested in and since we’d have to take her because no 10-year-old of mine is boarding anything called a “Party bus”.  I tried her out one day in my car on a playlist of mine featuring “The Who” who were also coming in the spring.  I mean this is their 50th anniversary tour so the likely hood this would be the last big tour was high. I hadn’t seen them since there were three of them still alive but now John Entwistle was gone so it was really just Pete and Roger and a backing band. It was still the right voice and guitar so it was as close to The Who as you could get.  Emma was not that interested in the band till I mentioned they were playing this May and then she wanted to go. That showed a severe determination to want to see a live show so bad you’d go see someone you don’t even like. Who am I to talk? I haven’t listened to Ozzy Osborne since 1983 in fact to this day his are the only albums I ever sold from my record collection.


These days’ concert tours are set up so far in advance you’re buying tickets 6 months or longer before the show and you could lose interest before the gig arrives. Then a funny thing happened, an unexpected concert was announced with the show date only 5 weeks later. It was unexpected because there were only 5 dates on tour at the time and 2 of them were here in Vancouver. The last time I’d seen this show was in 2012 and I was positive at the age or 72 that was the last time I’d ever enjoy Paul McCartney live. I’d already seen him three times previous but this was his first time to Vancouver since 1965 so we jumped on it. Now not even 4 years later Paul was coming back to town. This one had me intrigued because Emma not only liked the Beatles music but some songs like Eleanor Rigby or Hey Jude were among her all-time favorites. From the moment I heard about the show I knew I was going and I’d be taking JoAnn with no argument from her, she loved his music too.  If there was ever a concert to let Emma see earlier then we said we would could this be the one? Paul turns 76 this year and regardless of how healthy he is as a vegan sooner or later, the clock runs out on us all. He is a musical icon that helped influence pretty much anyone that has picked up an instrument since the 60’s.  This is a show that couldn’t wait for her to grow up, Paul isn’t getting any younger.


Even before discussing the idea with JoAnn I was thinking it over for a few days as the tickets went on sale only a couple days after the announcement.  On the morning the tickets went on sale our power was out so I had to use my phone which had me a bit stressed. The only saving grace is this was an early American Express offer so it wasn’t general ticket sales open to the public which happened a few days later.  I had my hands on two amazing seats within the first 10 rows for JoAnn and I.  You only have four minutes to hold the seats before they are returned to the pool. I then looked at what 4 tickets in the cheap seats looked like. The same money as those two amazing seats up front, this was certainly the last time I’d ever see Sir Paul and it would be great to see him up close. I however, pulled the trigger on those cheap seats and wondered what I was going to do if JoAnn thought taking the girls was a bad idea.  Thankfully she was on board but we didn’t tell the girls. For weeks I keep telling both Kate and Emma that their mother and I were going. Maybe it was a bit of a sick twisted mind game but it was fun to hear them plead. It wasn’t untill the weekend before the gig only a few days out did we let them in on the secret. I asked them if they’d like a concert shirt to which they jumped at the chance to get one. I told them it might be hard to pick the right size without them being there so maybe they should come. I wasn’t expecting dead silence but I think they were both trying to compute what I just said.


The excitement never really wore off because they only knew days before the gig. It was sort of funny their friends at school didn’t know who Paul McCartney was. So sad but for that state of ignorance, I have to blame the parents on that one. Introduce your kids to good music people.IMG_0805


I was excited as I normally would be for any show but I think I was even more excited at the idea of taking the girls. JoAnn and I had seen this show three times before, two before we ever had kids so this was a first for me too. I was so excited to see how Emma reacted to all of it. The walk up to the arena, finding your seats then describing to her what she was looking at. She didn’t even realize which end was the stage where he’d be playing. I was instantly recalling my first show with wonder, not knowing how anything worked or what to expect. I guess the difference for her is she really liked some of the songs she was about to hear.  Every time Paul played one she knew well she perked right up. She was getting pretty tired as the show hit the 2-hour mark when I told her if she slept through the next one she could sleep anywhere.  “Live and Let Die” starts out nice enough but ever since I’ve been seeing Paul live this is the one song where pyrotechnics get lit off. From fireworks over an outdoor stage to flames and cannon blasts like this night, combined with lasers bouncing all around the arena it was 3 minutes that could wake the dead. Then into “Hey Jude” her favorite that had her singing along with everyone else in the building, “NA, NA, NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA HEY JUDE”.  It was a memorable show for me and I can’t imagine Emma will ever forget her first show with her dad at age ten. Heck I never forgot my first gig with my dad at that exact same age.


For me, the highlight of the night after being able to enjoy this show with my girls was during the encore. I like any fan nerd checked the first 3 dates of the tour online to see the complete set list. It didn’t change from night to night but something strange happens when Paul plays Canada. He pulls out a song that rarely gets played anywhere else in the world.  When I saw his guitar tech hand him his acoustic guitar when he should have been strapping on his bass I knew we were in for a treat. When the song started I held my breath, was it really happening? After the first verse, a local pipe and drum band marched onto the stage in full Scottish tartan dress to play the rest of “Mull of Kintyre” with Paul’s band. On one hand, I’m enjoying live music with my girls from an icon I’ve been listening too since I was five. On the other hand, I’m listening to live pipe and drum band like I did with my dad when I was ten at my first real live show. For the record dad, the Beatle that wrote that song was Paul McCartney and I wish you were here to enjoy this with us.


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