Alameda County Fair shows 2014
By Dan Wall and Ace Collins
The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, California is rapidly gaining the reputation as the place to go in Northern California to see classic rock. In past years, a couple of good shows might take place during the fair’s nearly three week run.
In 2014, however, in addition to comedy, soul and funk as well as tribute bands emulating Journey and Motley Crue, classic rock bands such as Credence Clearwater Revisited, Eddie Money, Tesla, America and Night Ranger all played full headline sets at the fair’s beautiful amphitheater. Because the concert is free with paid admission to the fair, people that have never seen these bands get a chance to check them out, providing a large appreciative crowd for these bands to display their rockin’ talent. Here’s a rundown of what went down at the 4 gigs ClassicRockRevisited scoped out:
Eddie Money 6/19/2014
I remember the first time I saw Eddie Money. It was at Winterland in San Francisco, circa 1975, and it wasn’t even a live set. The Bill Graham folks who ran the world’s greatest-ever concert hall used to play back sets from previous shows held at the old ice palace, and one night Money’s classic Sounds of the City set played back before a Montrose show. I can still remember how cool he looked, how good he sounded, and even though his debut album wasn’t released for nearly a year, those great songs (“Don’t Worry,” “Wanna Be A Rock and Roll Star,” “Gambling Man”) used to ring in my head long before they were available.
Nearly 30 years later, Money still looks cool, sounds great and has a whole slew of great songs in his now sizable playbook to break out when he tours. Money looked and moved well on this night, and believe me, I’ve seen him when he looked terrible and could hardly move. He reminds one of Ozzy Osbourne at times, like a boxer who’s taken too many punches. And speaking of ‘punch’, Eddie had all the punch-LINES, reminiscent of a Rodney Dangerfield routine, entertaining the crowd of all ages. Early on, you always look for signs of Money’s physical abilities, and on this night he was great.
Before the gig started, CassicRockRevisited.com caught up to drummer Glenn Symmonds and his wife setting up the merch booth. They took extra care making sure there were plenty of available items for the fair goers to obtain prior to the gig. Not only was there Eddie stuff, but Glenn had his own “Beat Cancer Like A Drum” T-shirts and gear, as Glenn is currently in remission from cancer.
"Being diagnosed with cancer makes everything else stop. By its very nature, cancer forces you to stand up and notice it. In the blink of an eye you have to fight and be vulnerable at the same time. You have to decide who and what really matters. You have to trust strangers with your life & your dignity. Cancer puts you in uncomfortable situations & humiliating circumstances. Cancer demands that you watch the clock and make each moment count."
Glenn has his own website with solo tunes and stuff… check out www.glennsymmonds.com - Every bit helps!
Eddie strolled on-stage right on time at 8pm, and did his 75 minutes like a champ. Eddie was in fine voice, and with guitarist Tommy Girvin acing the solos, drummer Glenn Symmonds and bassist Lee Beverly keeping the bottom, and keyboardist Chris Grove adding touches to the hit parade, it was easily the best Money show I’ve seen since his headlining heyday. Just take a look at that set list, and it’s easy to see that Money wasted no time or energy on filler—on this night, Money and his band were on fire, and the 75-minute set just flew by. “Baby Hold On,” “Take Me Home Tonight,” “I Think I’m in Love,” “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Shakin’”—all huge hits, and all still sounding great. Money is still loved in the Bay Area, and the huge crowd that gathered treated Money like a returning hero.
Afterward, Eddie had some time to spend with his fans, signing autographs and sharing stories with everyone who approached him and said, “I remember when I first saw you at…..”
They say if do some something long enough, you’ll probably see and experience everything. On June 29, I went to see Tesla and wasn’t allowed to enter the amphitheater. Ace wasn’t allowed to take pictures-the security claimed the place was too full, and even though we were invited as members of the press, we couldn’t get in to the show. So Ace and I sat outside the venue, ate some ribs, drank some beer and watched the show on the video screens. And guess what-it was Tesla up there, doing what the band has been doing for nearly 30 years-rocking out and entertaining the crap out of everyone there. (Please check out Jeb’s full review of the band in the concert report section).
I’ve seen the band enough to know that Jeff Keith sang his heart out, with that toothy grin and breezy banter warming the crowd’s hearts. Frank Hannon and Dave Rude tore up the riffs and solos with classic Gibson axes, bassist Brian Wheat rocked the heck out of the bottom end, and drummer Troy Lucketta slammed the hell out of his huge kit. All of the big hits were there, and the group even played three songs from its new “Simplicity” record. Being excluded has never happened to me before (we even had friends inside saving us seats), but I guess it’s definitely a different take on the usual concert experience. Ribs were great, too.
If you think Eddie Money and Tesla have been treading the boards for a long time, how about America? The band released its first record in 1971, and has been on the road pretty much ever since. Both Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell remain from the original line-up (Dan Peek passed away in 2011), and the soft rock superstars continue to entertain with a songbook that is played every day on classic rock and easy listening radio.
It’s hard to describe America as a rock band-the group is definitely on the softer side, but the duo remains one of my favorite Sunday morning artists. There's nothing like listening to America perform “Daisy Jane,” “Tin Man” or “I Need You” while drinking a cup of coffee and folding the week’s laundry. So how do the guys fair when playing live?
There are definitely less thrills (and pyro) than at an Iron Maiden show. The real thrills come from the band’s interaction with the crowd and the set list that includes at least 12 songs that everyone on earth knows. Aside from those mentioned above, “Ventura Highway,” “Sandman,” “You Can Do Magic,” “Sister Golden Hair” and the Hall of Fame classic “A Horse with No Name” were all aired. Both Beckley and Bunnell have lost a bit of range vocally, but that didn’t stop the crowd from singing all of the songs at the top of their lungs. A special shout out must go to drummer Willie Leacox, who played one of his last shows with the band after spending 42 years on the road.
Night Ranger 7-06-2014
Night Ranger is one of the best melodic hard rock bands still slugging it out on the road from the 80’s. Two distinct voices (bassist Jack Blades and drummer Kelly Keagy), two great guitarists (Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra) and a back catalog that is the envy of many contemporaries allow this band to tour in front of huge and devoted crowds.
The new material has been very good as well, and the band can now trot out a set of classics and new songs that entertain old and new fans alike.
The group is still as tight as any melodic rock giant, with keyboardist Eric Levy holding down the melodies, and Gillis and Hoekstra tearing it up, each with their signature licks, especially on “Eddie’s Coming Out Tonight,” the live set’s tour-de-force. The veterans of rock even pulled out a couple of rare cuts as well. But it was the run for home that featured “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” “Sister Christian” and “(You Can Still) Rock in America” that cements the band’s reputation as a hit machine and a great live act.