Thursday, July 21, 2011
Some snapshots first, in words.
1964: I am the World’s Youngest British Invasion fan. Barely out of diapers, I cling to my AM transistor radio like a comforting blankie, and the airwaves at this time are ruled by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Freddie & the Dreamers, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and the Animals. My parents, 40 years older than me, largely dismiss it all as garbage and noise, preferring Big Band swing. The one British Invasion song my father never flips off the car radio is “The House Of The Rising Sun,” by the Animals. “Boy’s got a good voice,” he would say, and I would be thrilled, like I had won one for the team.
1966: I beg, cry, and plead until my frustrated teenage babysitter gives me her 45 copy of the Animals’ “See See Rider.” I play it over and over and over and over until no one can stand it anymore. I still own it.
1967: Between the Beach Boys, Gidget, and Eric Burdon & the Animals’ “San Franciscan Nights" and “Monterey,” I decide that my family should move from Wisconsin to California as soon as possible. This never happens.
1970: I lay on my back on the green grass of my front lawn, staring up at the puffy white clouds. Next to me, still, my radio, playing “Spill The Wine.” It’s a huge hit, and the radio station plays it often. Each time, I listen intently, trying to figure out what on earth the words mean. I never really do, but hearing Eric Burdon’s familiar voice again makes me happy.
And I guess that gives you an idea why I was so excited to be able to see Eric Burdon and the Animals play live this past Sunday at Snoqualmie Casino’s Mountain View Plaza. He’s been with me my whole life.
The casino is set on a beautiful piece of land, surrounded by mountains and huge pine trees. I got there early to check out the venue for photos – something I always like to do my first time shooting in any new place. I had been stressing about the day’s gloomy drizzle which had been threatening to turn into full out rain, because the Mountain View Plaza is a rain-or-shine gig. The security staff gave each concert attendee a blue plastic rain poncho, and were exceptionally friendly and helpful. Here’s my view from the pit before the show, if you’ve never been in a pit. Pro tip: watch your footing; it’s easy to trip over cables, scaffolding, and other photographers if you are goofy like myself.
The rain stayed at a doable drip, and the band appeared onstage at 6PM to a very happy audience, most of whom had years on me. I don’t know how you’d term it, but when I see a woman in her 70s, in a wheelchair, in the rain wearing a blue plastic rain poncho, singing as loudly as she can,” It’s my life, and I’ll do what I want, it’s my mind and I’ll think like I want,” I call that a pretty hardcore rock n’ roller there.
Eric, sporting Ray-Ban shades and a wicked sharp haircut, was in spectacular voice. All the power and emotion, still there, always by far the best of the Brit blues singers, I say. He is one of those natural-born vocalists, like Mavis Staples, Marvin Gaye, or Bono. That voice just comes out all big and booming and beautiful. He easily interacted with the awe-struck crowd, and often picked up a cowbell or tambourine to add to the ultra-pro Animals (Billy Watts, guitar, Brannen Temple, drums, Red Young, keyboards, and Terry Wilson on bass) who seemed to be having just as grand of a time. (You can click on the photos to bring them up full-size, or see them here on Flickr, too.)
After I finished shooting, I made my way to my seat for the rest of the show, and looked around me at the crowd. There were people here who were stoked to see Eric, let me tell you, just stoked, including the ones who had to dance along so much that they moved their groove to the sidelines as to not block anyone else’s view. There were lots of standing o’s, and singing along, and fists pumping into the air, punctuating the lyrics felt the most. No Washington concertgoers were going to let a little moisture get them down!
After the hour-long set and a generous encore featuring some extended solos by the band members, the band left the stage for the evening. As the people filed out of the Mountain View Plaza, I noticed how so many of them had huge smiles and were giddily discussing the show with their friends. My snapshots of Eric Burdon and the Animals now are not the warm, faded, memories of my childhood, but 1’s and 0’s stored on a digital memory card. I think if my dad had been able to be there with me at the show, there is no doubt what his review would have been.
“Boy’s got a good voice.”
Many thanks to Eric Burdon and the Animals, Marianna Proestou, and everyone at Snoqualmie Casino for a great evening.