NOTE: Due to space constraints, the following reviews were not included in the print edition of GEOFF WILBUR'S RENEGADE NEWSLETTER. These reviews are only available here in the online edition.
February 4, 1998
VanAndel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI
While some rock acts talk of loyalty to their fans, Aerosmith wrote the book on it, literally. Their autobiography (a must read), Walk This Way, is not only a dedication to their fans, it also gives you a respect for the fact that these guys are still alive today. By arriving a day early, with plans to spend some extra time in Grand Rapids before and after their February 4th concert, WLAV was given a chance to help the band members show support to their West Michigan fans by hosting a "Live interview/Guest DJ" event with 300 winners on hand.
Just how lucky were these few hundred folks? Not very, unless you were about the first fifty to arrive and get a spot up front by the table where Steven Tyler, Joe Perry (who isn't that big on crowds), and Tom Hamilton sat. Otherwise, not only couldn't you see them (especially when the media crew turned on the spotlights), but you could hardly hear them at all, either, with the sound system so low. It was then cranked when a song (of their choosing) was played. At hour's end, out they went -- through the kitchen, down the freight elevator, and gone. People still seemed ecstatic to be there, and that was the point of it.
The following night's concert was a definite make-up for some lost years away, performing two hours worth of Aerosmith's greatest hit after hit. It was somewhat disappointing not to hear them pull any rarities out of their oldies catalog, but they were so rock solid (being on the road nine months) that you knew they could do these in their sleep. It gave an everlasting impression on the new generation of Aero fans. Steven Tyler had even said later, back at their hotel, the band was so impressed by the response that they would make sure Grand Rapids was an ongoing tour stop.
Before leaving G.R. the next night, drummer Joey Kramer was given a chance to make an appearance at our local RIT Drums music store. It took two full hours, as promised, just to sign items for a couple hundred that came through the door. Then he was kind enough to spend an additional half hour answering questions and showing off some trademark techniques from favorite Aerosmith tunes. He even brought up a couple young rookies to help inspire their learning. All for the good name of Aerosmith -- the fans love 'em.
February 21, 1998
VanAndel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI
It may take quite some time before Elton John's sellout record is broken. However, a record was set this night by another keyboardist -- That Greek guy known the world over as Yanni. He beat out Elton by $2,000 for gross ticket sales by selling half the 11,000 tickets for $9.00 more each. So, what's the fascination of a Yanni show? No need questioning the ladies on this one -- especially my neighbor Helen, who Yanni accepted a rose from at the front of the stage.
Known as the guy with Tom Selleck's looks (only thinner) with shoulder length hair, he is self-taught but is said to have a perfect pitch for music. Yanni composes, arranges, and produces his own music, which has sold nearly 10 million copies. His concert video of Live at the Acropolis had helped to raise $12 million for the PBS network. His most recent concert video, Tribute, which was taped at both the Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City, made Yanni the first Western artist given permission to perform at either of these sacred monuments. The Grammy nominated keyboardist has also had his music heard during both Winter and Summer Olympic games, U.S. Open tennis, and U.S. golf tournaments.
Returning to a reason for seeing him in concert -- a Yanni concert may focus on him, but he pays due respect to the other 28 extremely talented musicians who make up his touring band, who come from all over the world, including his (first time) addition of an awesome vocalist, Flint's own Vanna Johnson, hot off a Michael Bolton tour. Then we have Yanni's solo violinist (since '89) extraordinaire Karen Briggs, who deserves every minute of attention she's given to project herself.
As the stage is covered with every string instrument, trumpets, percussion, woodwinds, guitars, and even a harp, each musician shares an equal job in taking each audience member on with a passionate, emotional ride from one vast journey of music to the next, which leaves one feeling at its three hours end that "yes, this trip would be well worth taking again."
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