Concerts: Johnny Rivers Meets the Beatles

Is It the Venue Or the Initial Experience?

What a difference a venue makes when taking in a concert. Being a Beatles fan-AT-ic, Joanna and I trekked off Phoenix's Celebrity Theater a few years ago to check out 1964—The Tribute, whom Rolling Stone named as the "number one Beatles tribute show on Earth!" Happy to have opted for closeup aisle seats, it wasn't long before we were up dancing and singing.

Part of the excitement was the intimate setting, for certain. No seat is further than 75 feet from the stage (!), and the platform revolves during the show so everyone gets a good look at the performers. We had such a good time that evening, we returned a few weeks later to catch '60s chart-topper and Monterey Pop co-promoter Johnny Rivers (more about that show, and Johnny, in another post).

Boasting about 1964 to friends, it was with tremendous enthusiasm, then, that I promoted seeing them al fresco at the National Cherry Capital Festival in Traverse City, MI (where the group usually appears each July). Although another friend had procured VIP seating, we were relegated to a side stage area and couldn't get close to the action. Though still fun, it just wasn't the same as the initial experience.

Though I think it's a venue issue, I also know it to be a "first-time experience" thing, too. Joanna surely feels this way, preferring to not see any group twice, the experience just not being the same. This was certainly true when we finally got the opportunity to hear Willie & Lobo at the Palms Playhouse in Winters, CA. With no reserved seating and us second in line, we were treated to front-row seats for that show—as if the entertainers were playing to us only! Yet when we flew down to their former home base in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a New Year's Eve apres-dinner show, it just wasn't the same. Still really fun, mind you, but not the same as our first, more intimate experience at the Palms.

This happened again with the White Album Ensemble when we saw them at Villa Montalvo's Carriage House in Saratoga, CA. Missing their inaugural White Album performance, we caught them the following year for their interpretation of Rubber Soul and Revolver—the bulk of which the Beatles could never have performed live in their day. It was fab-ulous, of course, and the crowd went nuts—as did we. Again part of it was the venue, the Carriage House not seating more than a few hundred, but it was also the newness of it all. Returning a year later to hear the ensemble play Sgt. Pepper's and Magical Mystery Tour, it just wasn't the same. Familiarity breeds contempt? I hope not!

(At the time of this posting) 1964—The Tribute appears at Carmel's Sunset Theater next Friday night. It should be a great show, for that venue is stunning, with excellent acoustic properties. To this I can attest, for Joanna and I had the great fortune of seeing Andreas Vollenweider & Friends there in 2006 (check out this excellent DVD), with yours truly in tears from the opening notes all the way through the concert—such was the performance and the sonic quality of the venue. Well done, Carmel! Would I like to be there? In a heartbeat!