Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Celebrity Theatre
Date: August 17, 2017
Tonight, was a night to celebrate the very best that Arizona has to offer in the form of music and entertainment. Over the years great entertainers and bands started here or have lived in Arizona for a good part of their career. “The Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame has been created to recognize and honor the contributions of musicians, entertainers, venues and individuals who have had a significant impact on the evolution and development of the musical and entertainment culture in the state of Arizona and to educate the public about these accomplishments.” Past inductees include: Dick Van Dyke, Al McCoy, The Tubes, Lew King, Alice Cooper, Glen Campbell, Danny Zelisko, Waylon Jennings, Linda Ronstadt, Steven Spielberg, Stevie Nicks, Jerry Riopelle and of course everyone’s favorite, Wallace and Ladmo and Pat McMahon just to name a few. Tonight, they honored 4 new outstanding inductees, the Celebrity Theatre, Nils Lofgren, the Gin Blossoms and the Meat Puppets.
The show started with a number of the current members entering the stage and being honored.
Phoenix Mayor, Greg Stanton came out to talked about what the Celebrity Theatre has meant to the valley. The Celebrity Theatre has been in operation (in one form or other) for over 50 years. The current owner Rich Hazelwood purchased the theatre in 2002 and did a massive remodel of the facility. Mayor Stanton had a very special letter that he offered Rich Hazelwood and Alycia Klein (General Manager) that was an official proclamation declaring the venue a historic Phoenix landmark. Mayor Stanton then introduced Pat McMahon who would induct the Celebrity Theatre. Pat has been a mainstay of the Phoenix area forever and told a lot of stories about the Celebrity Theatre over the past 50 years. The theater opened in 1964 with the musical production, “South Pacific”. Other the next 50 years the venue has seen such great bands as Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa, Billy Joel, Alice Cooper, The Tubes, Van Halen and Phoenix favorite, Jerry Riopelle to just name a few. It has also hosted boxing matches and plays. Comedians love the venue. I remember seeing George Carlin there a number of times in the 70s include the 1978 shows that he recorded for a HBO special, “George Carlin: Again!”. Rich and Alycia continue to bring great acts to the theatre working with local promoters like Danny Zelisko Presents.
Rich then talked about growing up in the area around the Celebrity Theatre where he delivering newspapers as a kid. He told people that someday he would own the theatre. Well a number of years later his dream came true. He and his team have put the Celebrity Theatre back on the map as one of the great concert and event venues in the country. The Celebrity Theatre is a very unique in that it has a round rotating stage. Because of this round design, there is no seat in the venue that is over 75 feet from the stage. Where else could you go and see a concert and have the worst seat in the house and still be that close and have a fantastic view. Rich and his team decided to remodel and upgrade the venue that included an upgrade of the sound and light system. Bands that are used to having giant stacks of equipment on stage are amazed that they have to use a lot less and the sound is still fantastic. I personal have sat in all areas of the theatre from the front row to last row and the sound and view are great no matter where I sat.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
Danny Zelisko came out to introduce the next inductee, Nils Lofgren. Danny talked about how he first saw Nils and remembers this guitarist jumping on a mini trampoline on stage and doing flips. Nils has been both a solo artist and a member of 2 great bands, Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The award was given to Nils by his son, Dylan. Nils took over and talked about his life and career. As for the flips on stage, he said he really doesn’t remember too much of that. He made a joke about him being allergic to alcohol, because it causes him to wake up in handcuffs. He told us about how he met his wife. They first met at the Stone Pony bar in Asbury Park. Then 15 years later he was re-introduced to her again here in Phoenix, and they finally had their second date. They were married and now live in Scottsdale. He also told about his collaboration with Lou Reed. He gave Lou a cassette of 13 songs he wrote and told Lou to change whatever he wanted. Nils hoped that Lou would help him on at least 1 of the songs. 3 weeks later Nils got a phone call at 4 in the morning. Being half asleep, he hears Lou proclaiming that he has written lyrics to all 13 songs over the last 72 hours (without sleeping) and is Nils ready to write down the lyrics. Well after a couple pots of coffee and 2 hours of dictation, Nils has everything for 2 of his great solo albums, Nils and The Bells. Now the fun part of the night, Nils picks up his acoustic guitar and played a 5-song set concluding with his hit, “No Mercy”. Sorry folks, no flips tonight.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
Next, we had 2 bands that cut their teeth on the bar scene in Phoenix and Tempe, the Gin Blossoms and Meat Puppets. They played at such classic bars as the Rebel Lounge, Mason Jar and the Sun Club. You were always sure to have a packed room when either of these fan favorites were playing.
First up were the Gin Blossoms. They were introduced by 3 different people/groups. First was the current Mayor of Tempe, Mark Mitchell who told stories about the band and their influence in the Tempe area. Next up was Grant Woods. You might remember Grant as Arizona’s Attorney General back in the 90s. Grant talked about his memories of the band and how they represented the good that comes out of Arizona. Finally, the Zubia brothers, Mark and Lawrence came out to introduce the band and handed out the awards to each member. Lawrence Zubia accepted on behalf of the late Doug Hopkins.
For tonight’s show the band consisted of Bill Leen (Bass), Chris McCann (Drums), Jesse Valenzuela (Guitar), Robin Wilson (Lead Vocals), Scott Hessel (Drums) and Scott (Scotty) Johnson (Guitar). They did a 7-song set of their greatest hits including “Follow you Down”, “Allison Road” and “Angels”. As a special treat, Nils Lofgren jumped on stage and played with the band for the last 2 songs, “Til I Hear It From You” and “Hey Jealousy”. He traded licks with both Scotty and Jesse. For the last song, “Hey Jealousy”, Lawrence Zubia came on stage and sang with Robin.
During their set, I was sitting in the audience by Nils family. Just prior to the last song this lady next to me asked if I would watch her purse (I must look trustworthy) because she was going on the stage for the last song. Sure, I thought to myself. Well, she got up and moved to the stage. As they started the last song, she got on the stage and ran out to Robin. Security came running out to remove her and I thought, here we go. But Robin just told the security person that it was ok and it looked like the band knew her. She took the tambourine from Robin and sang along with the band. After the song was over, she came back to the seats and got her purse. I have had a lot of strange things happen to me at shows, but this was one of the strangest.
Gin Blossoms Setlist:
Follow You Down
Until I Fall Away
Found Out About You
Til I Hear It From You
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
The last up for the evening was the Meat Puppets. They truly are an Arizona band. The original members grew up in Phoenix and attended Brophy Prep High School where they met. They later moved to Tempe where they started their career. Originally, they were considered a “punk rock” band, but really it is hard to pigeonhole them into a specific music genre. Over the years the lineup has changed and the original band members have moved on to different bands. For tonight’s show, they brought back the original members of the band, brothers Cris (Bass, vocals) and Curt (Guitar, vocals) Kirkwood and drummer Derrick Bostrom. They started the set with “Oh, Me” followed by “Touchdown King”. For me personally, I really enjoyed their harder rock style when they played “Lake of Fire”. They even covered a George Jones classic, “I’m Ragged but I’m Right”. They finished their set with their hit, “Backwater”. As they were playing, Cris and Curt would constantly go back the drum kit to interact with Derrick. They looked like they were having a great time on stage.
Meat Puppets Setlist:
Look At The Rain
Up on the Sun
Lake of Fire
I’m Ragged but I’m Right
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017