Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Venues: Talking Stick Resort Showroom, Celebrity Theatre & The Van Buren
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Dates: December 2018
December is always a great month in the greater Phoenix area for concerts. Since the 70s, I can remember a number of annual shows that have become classics and legendary.
We have to start with one of the greatest New Year’s Eve performers that they valley has ever seen. We lost one of the great artists in the valley this last year when Jerry Riopelle died in December just prior to his farewell shows at the Talking Stick Resort Showroom. Since the 70s he and his band were the New Year’s Eve concert to see. They sold out every New Year’s Eve show at the Celebrity Theatre during the 70s and early 80s. He was affectionately known as “Phoenix’s Elvis”. I remember being at a couple of the events in the 70s and was amazed at the number of women’s panties that were thrown on stage during the show. I was fortunate to see Jerry again in March 2017 when he did one of his last shows at Talking Stick Resort Showroom to a sold-out crowd. If you never saw Jerry, you missed out on one of the great performer. Songs like “Naomi’s Song” and “Walkin on Water” were probably his best known and fan favorites. We will sorely miss Jerry and his humor and wit while on stage and hopefully someday I will hear him sing “Walkin On Water” again.
For the past 17 years another of Phoenix’s great rock icons has produced a little show to help raise money for a teen center that he and his wife created for kids in the valley. I am talking about Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding event held at the Celebrity Theatre. Seventeen years ago, Alice and Sheryl Cooper saw the need for kids to develop and express their creative/artistic talents since the school system was cutting back on those programs. From their humble beginnings, this annual event has grown into the must be at event each December. It is a combination of both concert and auction. The auction part is to raise money for Alice and Sheryl’s Alice Cooper Solid Rock. Throughout the show, they auction off different items ranging from band photos to outfits worn by Alice on tour. They also have a number of performers from the teen center and friends of Alice. This year, 2018 we were entertained by Larry The Cable Guy, Buck Dharma & Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult, Gretchen Wilson and Sebastian Bach. The featured perform was by The Hollywood Vampires featuring Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper. If you ever get a chance to attend this event, please bring your wallet and help out this outstanding organization. For more information about the teen center and the great work they do, visit their website: www.alicecoopersolidrock.com .
Each December Brian Setzer brings his Orchestra to the Celebrity Theatre to put on their Swing/Rockabilly Christmas program. You probably remember Brian from his days with the Stray Cats. Brian has produced a combination Old Time Swing and Rockabilly concert of great Christmas tunes. I have seen Brain and the Orchestra a number of times and it is always a great performance. Personally, I am not a fan of Christmas songs having worked at Sear in the 70s where they played the same 6-hour tape of Christmas songs every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. However, I really enjoy Brian’s take on these classic Christmas songs and the band is outstanding. If you get the chance next year to see this show, it is definitely worth it.
And now to the new year end performance to see in Phoenix. Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers have been around for 20 years rocking the valley. Roger is a native of Arizona being brought up in both Tempe and Tucson. He has been called the “Southwest’s Bruce Springsteen”. Roger and the band are one of those unique bands that are so much better live than on their albums. The energy from Roger, P.H, Nick and Jim on stage is electrifying. Each year their performance gets bigger, longer and so much better. This last December they did a double set, starting with a 1-hour acoustic set and then a 2-hour electric rock performance. Most of you in the rest of the country only get the see the main members of the Peacemakers: Roger, Jim, Nick and P.H. perform, but we in Phoenix get to see additional band members from The Jons, another band from Tucson. This is definitely a show that any Rock and Roll fan should see.
Hopefully I will see you at one or more of these outstanding shows next year. It is a perfect way to end a year of great rock performance here in Phoenix.