READ ABOUT Robert Earl Keen
In the line of duty, as well as for pleasure, I have seen thousands of concerts, taking in live just about every style of music there is. I've been to halls grand and modest, sat in both luxe climate-controlled seats in top-drawer halls, and sweated in midsummer standing heel-deep in sawdust and spilled beer in Southern honky-tonks -- all for the sake of great music.
But one artist stands out -- Bruce Springsteen.
I'm not alone there, of course. Many peg his shows, especially those early ones, before his fame sent him and his E Street Band to arenas, as some of the best live concerts ever -- four-hour marathons of truly tremendous musicianship and storytelling.
My third night with Springsteen is the one I have to single out when pressed to choose a best ever.
It was in St. Louis, Nov. 25, 1978. The hall was deliciously small, built for opera but able to handle amplification with pizzazz. My friend Elizabeth Frank and I had seen the band twice before -- revelatory shows in and of themselves. But, for those first ones, we were seated at a distance. For this one, we took no chances. She spent the night in line before tickets went on sale. We scored row 20. I'll never forget walking in that hall and seeing just how close those beautiful instruments onstage were to our seats.
At the time, Springsteen had just finished a bitter legal battle to win back the rights to his recorded music. After not being able to follow up his breakthrough record "Born to Run" for three long years of legal wrangling, the Boss was back with "Darkness on the Edge of Town."
Talk about a band hungry for it, with everything to prove, and the skills to take the night!
They had been together long enough by then to musically fit hand-in-glove. The stories, the songs, the music that mixed old rock 'n' roll, soul, jazz and blues -- not a false move was made.
Honestly, I still look back on those four hours as among my most joyous, despite the miles and many concerts in between. I write about music today in part due to that experience.
Here are some of the good ones coming to Utah this summer you might want to check out. Good rocking to you!
Robert Earl Keen at the Ogden Music Festival -- The festival opens today and runs through Sunday, June 3, but my pick for the fest has to be Keen, playing at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2. The Texas troubadour is not only a maestro of songwriting, but a very engaging, audience-friendly guy. And his band puts on a fine, personable show as well.
The festival is at Fort Buenaventura Park, 2450 "A" Ave., Ogden. Cost is $40 for a three-day pass, $25 for a Saturday single-day pass, or $20 for a Friday or Sunday single-day pass. Tickets are available in advance from www.ofoam.org.
Neko Case at Library Square -- This edition of the Summer Solstice Show will be a winner for two reasons. One, it is a benefit for the Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City, which starts June 21 and features its own share of great music, including sets on opening night by James McMurtry and Mike Farris.
Secondly, Case, who has lived all over the United States, is a terrific songwriter and soaring singer, and her band captures her ethereal-yet-gritty style of Americana music perfectly. Her harmony vocals with backup singer Kelly Hogan are chill-inducing. See it at 7:30 p.m. June 16, Library Square, 400 South and 200 East, Salt Lake City. Cost is $30; tickets can be purchased from www.summersolsticeshow.com or at any Graywhale location.
John Fogerty at Deer Valley -- Talk about legends who couldn't do their own music for years and years! Due to a lawsuit with his record label, the Northern California-born songwriter and frontman for Creedence Clearwater Revival could not even legally perform his own songs for decades, much less record them.
But the writer of such classics as "Proud Mary," "Centerfield" and "Bad Moon Rising" is back, full-strength, and receiving some of the best reviews of his career on this live tour. His first new album since 2009 is expected out in the fall. Featuring both re-dos of some Fogerty classics with special guest artists, and a few new ones, the upcoming material will likely have Fogerty pulling out some juicy cuts in Utah.
The show is at 7 p.m. June 21 at Deer Valley Amphitheater, 2250 Deer Valley Drive, in Park City. Tickets are $50 for general admission, or $75 for reserved seating, and can be purchased at fteslc.com and all Graywhale locations.
The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary at Lavell Edwards Stadium -- Sure, The Beach Boys come around now and again, but not with founding members Brian Wilson and Mike Love both in the mix. The news of these two voices together again made music geeks' hearts pound hard, having waited decades for this to happen.
Part of the Stadium of Fire Independence Day celebration, the band that made summer endless with sparkling California harmonies and Wilson's brilliant production is sure to let loose many musical fireworks.
The show is at 8 p.m. July 4, at Lavell Edwards Stadium on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo. Tickets are $25 to $120, and can be purchased at www.freedomfest.org.
Los Lobos/Steve Earle and the Dukes, with "Duchess" Alison Moorer, at Red Butte Garden -- This concert is noteworthy for several reasons, not the least of which is bringing these two bands together for one show. Los Lobos, the Los Angeles band best known for playing and singing for the Ritchie Valens bio-pic "La Bamba," is one of the richest and deepest outfits in music today. These musicians have played together for almost 40 years, and have mastered blues, rock and folk, both Mexican and American in origin.
Earle, a Texas-born songwriter/playwright/novelist/actor/musician, is often identified as a country artist, but his musical reach is nearly as broad as Los Lobos'. His last few visits to Utah have been as a solo artist, displaying his softer musical side. Expect a more rocking set this outing, as he brings his full electric band, plus wife Alison Moorer, a strong singer/songwriter in her own right.
Even though Pioneer and Independence days will be over by show time, I would not rule out a firework or two at this show, either. It starts at 7 p.m. July 29, at Red Butte Garden, 300 Wakara Way, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Tickets are $42, or $37 for garden members.
My Morning Jacket at the Twilight Concert Series -- This Louisville, Ky.-born band has worked diligently since 1999, making crunchy, blues-laced rock 'n' roll.
These musicians have built a strong following with outstanding live shows, including a four-hour Bonnaroo festival turn in 2008 that lasted almost four hours and is the stuff of legend. The concert starts at 7 p.m., with a guest act yet to be announced. MMJ will play at about 8 p.m. on Aug. 9 at Pioneer Park, 400 South and 400 West in Salt Lake City. Cost is $5, with tickets available in advance via www.24Tix.com and at Graywhale locations.