I was an avid rock fan in the 60’s and 70’s, and one of the few people who actually paid for his Woodstock tickets! At the urging of my son, Michael – who was raised on and loves classic rock – Robin, Michael, Noah, and I made the trek out to Palm Springs for the Desert Trip Rock Festival. Although it’s a huge hassle to get to the festival grounds, it was a fantastic experience and all of us are really glad we went. We were way in the back, about 1/2 mile from the stage, but the sound system is terrific and there is a big monitor, so you can see the acts well. However, light travels much faster than sound, and, since we were so far away from the stage, the sound and the video weren’t quite in sync, which was a slight bummer. There is a second concert this weekend, and, if you can possibly get out there, you won’t be sorry. The tickets and hotel reservations are much cheaper now because the second weekend hasn’t sold out and the scalpers and hotels are in “Dire Straits.”
Bob Dylan was the opening act on Friday night. Unfortunately, he was beyond awful. When I sing, anyone nearby starts reaching for the cyanide capsules, but I sound like James Taylor compared to him. He didn’t say a word to the audience. He started out playing a few songs I knew, such as “Everybody Must Get Stoned” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” but soon started singing more recent songs, which weren’t nearly as good. I’d pass on Dylan and arrive late to catch the second act, which is “The Rolling Stones!” (The traffic will be much lighter then and it will take half the time to get there.)
I thought The Stones were a bit low energy for the first 30 minutes, but then they really kicked it into gear for the last 90. They even did a cover version of “Come Together,” although I didn’t think it quite matched the Beatles’ original. Starting from “Midnight Rambler,” they played to perfection “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Brown Sugar,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Their encore was, of course, “Satisfaction.” Jagger’s voice is still great, and Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts were wonderful too. Bill Wyman has retired (bass), but the new bassist didn’t miss a beat! I doubted that they could be topped by any of the other bands. Even my friend Rhonda (who always travels in style, was lucky enough to have reserved seats close to the stage, and isn’t even a Stones fan) thought they were phenomenal.
Saturday night started out with Neil Young, who I had never seen live before. He did a fine set, beginning with country mellow stuff like “Heart of Gold” and gradually moving on to his rock songs like “Down By the River” and “Rockin’ in the Free World.” His voice is still in great form. His back-up band was excellent. Unfortunately, he ran out of time and couldn’t do an encore, which was supposed to be “Cinnamon Girl.” He wasn’t as good as the Stones, but he was still terrific.
Then came Paul McCartney, who probably even topped The Stones, although it’s a really close call. (Keith has the greatest riffs, but Paul writes the greatest tunes.) Paul did about 75% Beatle songs, 25% Wings songs and his great solo song “Maybe I’m Amazed.” It was basically one incredible song after another. Paul was very personable and told some stories. He sang great hits like “Hard Day’s Night,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “We Can Work It Out,” and “Live and Let Die.” Neil joined him at the end of the set for “A Day in the Life” and “Give Peace a Chance.” Paul’s voice has lost a bit, but he still sings pretty well.
“The Who” started off Sunday night. I had seen them about 10 years ago at The Long Beach Convention Center, but the sound system was bad, so they didn’t sound that good. At the festival, however, they were unbelievably fantastic! Robin, Michael, Noah, and I all thought they were the best band at the show. “The Who” have some really great songs like “My Generation,” “Can’t Explain,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Pinball Wizard,” and many others. Pete Townsend is probably the most underrated guitarist in the world! He did amazing things on the guitar. He invented the power cord and still did his patented windmill strum, although he didn’t smash his guitar at the end of the set. Roger Daltry still sings well and twirls the mic. Keith Moon (drummer) and John Entwistle (bassist) are both deceased, but Zach Starky (Ringo’s son) and the new bassist were also great. “The Who” had tremendous energy from start to finish, and everyone was dancing. It’s worth going out there just to see them! (If you want to see how great “The Who” are, see the film “The Who at the Isle of Wight – 1970.”)
We left Sunday night to miss the traffic and didn’t see Roger Waters (since none of us are “Pink Floyd” fans), but he was supposed to be terrific too. Michael declared it “The Best Weekend of my Life” and it’s easily in my Top 5!