Columns

Hear this rebel yell

Two years.

That’s how long it’s been since we’ve enjoyed live music.

We couldn’t have known that the Aug. 24, 2019, Sammy Hagar concert at Northern Quest would mark the beginning of our live-performance desert, as a global pandemic wiped clean our event calendars.

Thursday night the first drop of musical rain fell for us as Billy Idol wowed a sold-out crowd at Northern Quest.

Sporting more leather jackets than a motorcycle club, Idol and his amazing band brought back my high school memories with a vengeance and reminded me just how much I’ve missed the joy of live music.

Black leather isn’t really my thing, but if I could rock it when I’m 65, the way Idol does, I might reconsider.

After glancing around the dancing crowd, Derek nixed that idea.

“I’m pretty sure Billy’s the only one who can squeeze his 60+ body into his ‘80s clothes and look OK.”

Cindy and Derek Hval at Billy Idol, August 2021

Actually, when Idol first broke into the music scene with Generation X, I was still in middle school wearing culottes with matching vests, handmade by my mother. So, yeah, I was definitely more One Hundred Dorks than “One Hundred Punks.”

By the time he launched his solo career, I was more than ready to give a “Rebel Yell.” Uh, as long as I kept the volume down, so my mom didn’t know I was listening to the “devil’s music.”

One afternoon I thought I was home alone and blasted “White Wedding” on MTV. Let’s just say Mom didn’t believe me when I told her the song was about every girl’s dream wedding.

“Why is he wearing more makeup than the bride?” she asked. “And why isn’t he wearing a shirt?”

Speaking of, evidently, Idol hasn’t added many shirts to his wardrobe since the 1980s. That delighted the Thursday night crowd when he showed off his still youthful abs and flexed his biceps to the accompaniment of the screams of his enthusiastic fans. Out of deference to my husband, I clapped politely and did my screaming on the inside.

His music probably doesn’t make sense to everyone. After all the lyrics to his version of Tommy James’ “Mony Mony” are still pretty incomprehensible.

“Cause you make me feel (like a pony)

So good (like a pony)

So good (like a pony)

So good (Mony Mony)”

Even so, it’s impossible not to dance a bit when that song plays on the oldies station. Yes, I’ve made peace with the fact my high school soundtrack has been relegated to the oldie channels, or worse played in supermarkets and on elevators.

By the way, Idol is a grandparent now, just like many of us who came of age during his prime.

That’s not to say his work is dated. At the concert, he sang his recently released “Bitter Taste.” Recorded during the pandemic, the song reflects on his near-fatal 1990 motorcycle accident.

“Hello, goodbye

There’s a million ways to die

Should’ve left me way back

Should’ve left me way back

By the roadside.”

The contemplative song gave way to more upbeat tunes like “Rebel Yell,” and he ended the show with “White Wedding.”

All in all, Idol’s concert was a fun return to all the things we’ve missed during the pandemic, and it sounded a hopeful note that better days are still to come.

Columns

There’s only one way to rock when you’re number three

Some women might chafe at being their husband’s third choice.

Not me.

When Derek read Sammy Hagar was coming to Northern Quest this summer, he quickly snapped up two tickets. My husband is a fan of all things Van Halen, and Hagar famously fronted for the band during David Lee Roth’s extended absence. The fact that former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony now tours with Hagar just sweetened the deal for Derek.

I’m not a Van Halen fan, and I only vaguely remember the Red Rocker’s solo career. As for Montrose and Chickenfoot?

I shook my head when Derek insisted I must have heard of Hagar’s other bands.

You see, while my husband was rocking out to Blue Oyster Cult, The Cars and Van Halen, I got my groove on with Bon Jovi, Blondie, Billy Joel, and way too much Air Supply.

I wasn’t worried about brushing up on my rock ’n’ roll ignorance because Derek planned to attend the concert with his brother, who at 13 months his junior, enjoys the same high school musical memories as Derek.

Alas, Darrol, an emergency room physician in Pullman, had to work the night of the concert.

No worries, because one of Derek’s good friends frequently goes to concerts with him, and also happens to own a signed Sammy Hagar guitar.

I knew they’d have a great time.

Then his friend found out about a family wedding he had to attend.

Derek looked at me doubtfully.

“Zach would go with me,” he said.

Our third son inherited his father’s love of Van Halen.

“But if you go with me, I’ll spring for a couple’s massage at the Spa,” Derek continued. “And dinner.”

I grinned.

“You had me at spa.”

So, Saturday afternoon we slipped into the hot tub at La Rive at Northern Quest, and sipped some wine, while we waited for the attendants to call us for our massages.

“I like Sammy Hagar better already,” I said.

Imagine my surprise when I liked him even more once he took the stage!

Some tunes like “I Can’t Drive 55,” and “Right Now” were familiar due to radio play back in the day, but others like “Why Can’t This Be Love,” and “Mas Tequila” were fun new songs to me.

Derek was thrilled with the set list, and even more pleased that Hagar’s voice has held up so well.

“He sounds way better than David Lee Roth did in Tacoma,” Derek said.

He’d taken two of our sons to see Van Halen several years ago when they played in Tacoma, and while they had a great time, Derek said Roth’s vocals sounded strained and the band played louder to cover the weakness.

Hagar didn’t need any such help Saturday night. And in my opinion the Red Rocker is hotter at 71, than he ever was at 31. His moplike head of curls has been tamed just a bit and he’s trim, fit, tanned, and has moves better than Jagger’s.

“Must be all that tequila,” Derek mused.

Hagar founded a tequila company in the ’90s and sold it several years ago.

Whatever the reason, Hagar still has the pipes to hit all the right notes. But even better, on Saturday it was apparent to his thousands of fans at Northern Quest that Hagar truly loves what he’s doing.

His appreciation of the venue and the crowd seemed sincere. When it came time for his encore, he didn’t bother to leave the stage.

Instead, he stayed and gave the audience more of what they wanted.

Turns out I was one of those fans screaming for more.

If Hagar’s right that “There’s Only One Way to Rock,” then being your husband’s third choice is sure a fun way to do it.

Columns

Fans Keep on Lovin’ REO Speedwagon

He stood like a lonely Statue of Liberty, holding his lighter aloft, its flame flickering in the darkness. An actual cigarette lighter, not a pale imitation cellphone flashlight.

You should have seen by the look in my eyes, baby

There was something missin’

He swayed. Silent. Stoic.

You should have known by the tone in my voice, maybe

But you didn’t listen

The Thursday night crowd at Northern Quest Resort and Casino had already come unglued as REO Speedwagon unleashed “In Your Letter “ and “Keep Pushin’,” but something tells me the fan with the lighter had been waiting for “Keep on Loving You.”

Like any iconic rock band, REO Speedwagon knew fans had come to hear their hits and to bask in the memories that their music brings. And Lighter Guy, lost in his own world, was as my kids say, feeling “all the feels.”

And I’m gonna keep on lovin’ you

’Cause it’s the only thing I want to do

I don’t want to sleep, I just want to keep on lovin’ you

By the time the chorus rolled around, most of the sold-out crowd, including Derek and I, stood with Lighter Guy, belting out the lyrics.

When my husband saw REO Speedwagon was coming to Northern Quest, he quickly scooped up tickets. After all, the band was at its zenith when Derek graduated from high school in 1981. There’s nothing like a blast of music from the past to make you feel young again.

50263490_2148484871856795_2306722124594675712_o[1]

With evangelistic zeal, lead singer Kevin Cronin whipped the middle-aged crowd into a frenzy – especially the super fan across the aisle from us. She whooped. She hollered. She pogo-jumped up and down and her air guitar skills were impressive.

“Rock ’n’ roll will keep you young forever!” Cronin hollered.

“Or else it kills you,” Derek said, shouting in my ear.

That was the last thing I actually heard him say for quite a while. It was the first time I’d wished for earplugs at a concert since Def Leppard played the Spokane Arena in 2017. Everything sounded like I was underwater no matter how many times I tried to pop my ears.

About four songs into the evening, things began to sound clearer.

“I think my ears are adjusting,” I said.

“What?” Derek replied. “I can’t hear you. They are really loud!”

Despite the decibel level, the band sounded great, but it was the crowd that truly made the show. In addition to Lighter Guy and Air Guitar Lady, Baseball Cap Gal, in front of us, was a hoot to watch.

With her curly hair pulled through the back of her ball cap, she looked to be having the time of her life. She rocked. She bounced. She shook her gray-streaked ponytail like the teenager she used to be. And she knew the lyrics to every single song, even “Tough Guys.”

We didn’t mind her exuberance a bit, as she was a tad on the short side.

“Oh, hey, I didn’t realize she was standing up,” said Derek.

However, one fan’s enthusiasm kept getting the better of her. She doggedly danced down the aisle to the front of the stage, only to be repeatedly danced back by a long-suffering, very patient member of the security team.

At one point she found Air Guitar Lady and they linked arms, attempting to lead her to worship at the altar of their rock gods.

A woman behind us leaned forward.

“That’s not going to end well,” she said.

Sure enough, moments later, Air Guitar Lady was back in her row, while Mosh Pit Hopeful was escorted to the nether regions.

You have to admire a band that inspires that kind of devotion decades after their last chart-topping hit.

REO Speedwagon still delivers a fantastic, high-energy show. “Ride the Storm Out” shook the room, and the crowd eagerly offered vocal assistance on “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Take it on the Run.”

Keep in mind these guys aren’t exactly teenagers. Kevin Cronin is 67, bassist Bruce Hall is 65, and founding member, keyboardist Neal Doughty is 72, yet they blazed through their entire set list, plus encores, without a break.

Who knows? Maybe rock ’n’ roll really does keep you young forever.

50018912_2146954448676504_3808813071523119104_n[1]