Puerto Rico's Concert: A retrospective

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Puerto Rico's Concert: A retrospective

Postby moonrec » October 28th, 2007, 12:16 pm

Hi Michael,

I found out about Sagas closing concert here in PR. It saddened me a bit, but after reading your reasons to do so, I understand.

My mind flies back to that first concert you did in the island back in 1999, in the little Guaynabo's Coliseum which in fact was also my first. I was 12 years old back then and it it took a lot to persuade my parents to let me go. I was not prepared to what I was going to watch, and neither the rest of the audience: Lasers, great performances...my mind was blown! You kept coming back almost every other year and we received you with open arms, like a part of our family. Then we stopped hearing about you, but your albums kept coming. When I knew that you we going to perform at el Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan, I gathered all my buddies and we headed there. A friend of mine bought the tickets, and I was complaining that I did not got seats at the center. But that changed when, contrary to the house rules you jumped out of the stage and merged with the crowd. As you passed by my seat, I extended my hand and you stopped and gave me a solid handshake...I had never imagined this was going to happen: to give a hand shake to my favorite singer in the world in the middle of a concert. My wife joked that I was happier than a dog with two tails.

Being this December concert the last, I feel obliged to go as the other people who wen that Saturday in 1999. There has been no radio announcements, just an obscure ad in a regional newspaper. But I am spreading the voice. This closes an important chapter in many people's lives. You inspired me to write, Ian, to play guitar, Jim to learn Bass guitar, Greg Chadd and Gilmour to learn Keyboards and Steve to appreciate great drums playing. Saga has definitely influenced my life.

I hope to be at December's concert to say goodbye to your legacy. I hope you find your well deserved happiness with your family.
Gabriel Sierra
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Oh, oh... (Chapter 1)

Postby demf » December 2nd, 2007, 11:04 am

Gabriel, your review is giving me flashbacks...

Early January, 1981. I'm 13, my older brother is 14. We've nagged our parents to allow us to a rock concert, 100 miles away from home in Mayagüez. Our grandparents, both alive at the time, had an abandoned house about a mile away from the venue, the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, that they're not using. A relative with some mental problems has turned the house into a dump, and he's willingly living among 7 tons of thrash. Mom, dad, and both of us make the trek to the house to rehabilitate it little by little, and at least one of the rooms is livable (we had to evict the guy once my grandfather died). And as a prize for helping the folks clean part of the dump, we're both granted a wish.

My brother, out of peer pressure, wants to see Saga. He has no idea on how they sound, beyond the guitar riff for "How Long?". I have. There has been quite a buzz on the radio about a RADIO SPOT for a stereo store in San Juan (remember, this is the pre-iPod, even the pre-Walkman days, and buying and collecting humongous stereo equipment was a quite expensive hobby in those days). The spot features no mention of any equipment. It does feature the haunting voice of David Ortiz Angleró, the James Earl Jones of Puerto Rico, a bit player in Woody Allen's movie Bananas, and the owner of a deep, dramatic voice that would give Darth Vader a run for his money (hear a sample of his voice here: http://cdbaby.com/mp3lofi/arortiz2-03.m3u). Ortiz preempts the keyboard-guitar duel of "Humble Stance", which makes the spot perhaps the first radio advertisement in heavy rotation on any radio station in Puerto Rico, ever.

I'm dying to see if (and how) these people can pull the song out live. My brother just wants to go to the concert, have a good time and hear "How Long?" I've done my research with my schoolmates. These people are from Canada, their first album is stunning, their second one is dramatic, and the third one kicks absolute ass. Some guy saw them the year before in a basketball arena in Guaynabo, and he's a converted fan. I hear bits and pieces of songs at school. These people sound like nothing I've heard in the past.

My brother and I were straight arrows, even naive for our age. We had no idea on how concerts worked, and the heaviest chemical substance in our systems was the champagne in one of our brothers' wedding, as well the bronchitis med I'm taking. I'm feverish, and my mom doesn't want me to go, but the ticket was expensive ($26), and I'm way too adamant to go to allow for a cancellation.

We make the 1 1/2 mile drive to the arena in what turns out to be a gi-normous traffic jam. My folks are concerned about leaving the two kids alone at the place, which they do, unwillingly. Once we step out and my brother asks his way around, we hear that there had been a major riot at one of the gates. A crowd of about 2,000 had been pushing and shoving against the main gate to the general entrance seats. They're sick of waiting to get in, and it is already 6 PM. An inadequate police force is trying to assist security in pushing the people back, who are calling them "sons and daughters of a sexual worker", to put it less crudely. There are two more gates up the ramp, and the two control posts are being staffed to manage the onslaught of the crowd. The gate is open a little, and people are being trickled in. And wow, we're not in, yet...
Last edited by demf on December 2nd, 2007, 12:31 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Jawdropper (Chapter 2)

Postby demf » December 2nd, 2007, 11:22 am

After some major pushing and shoving, and being frisked at the gate, we get into the place. The Roberto Clemente Coliseum has had its share of major history, musical (Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz, and the Fania All Stars had seminal live recordings made there), as well as sports-related (George Foreman's spiritual rebirth happened there also), but the place has seen better days (it has been remodeled three times since). At the time we come in, some areas of the venue, poorly designed for rock concerts to begin with, had been thrashed. Acoustic tile had been ripped off one of the lobbies and used as freesbies, along with actual freesbies, at least 13 rolls of toilet paper (one or two lighted up in fire), and the occasional firecracker or smoke bomb as projectiles. Progressive and hard blues music is blaring from the P.A. system. Controlled mayhem, if you will.

We are sitting at the second floor, stage left. A pack of firecrackers explodes in the air near us, and the crowd goes on a roar. Most kids feature rock band shirts, and the girls are wearing frocks (some rather skimpy), bell bottoms and other neo-hippie gear that won't raise an eye nowadays, but shocking to this quiet kid at the time. The sound check goes forever, and the people are truly testy, and directing their angst against the security people and some of the road crew. "We want rock! We want rock! Hi-joe-pu-tas! Hi-joe-pu-tas! Hi-joe-pu-tas!"

But Saga is about to make their way to the stage...
Last edited by demf on December 2nd, 2007, 12:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Second-hand Peter Tosh (Chapter 3)

Postby demf » December 2nd, 2007, 11:36 am

My brother meets one of his classmates, and is actually embarrassed of me being there, but -thank God- doesn't make a big scene of it. We join them on a row of seats that allows good viewing. A rather sassy girl meets two shirtless guys next to us. She's hotter than anything I've seen at my hometown, though a bit scruffy looking. She gets rid of her friend, sends her a few rows below us, and sits in the row below ours, next to the shirtless guys. Some people are jumping seat tiers, with at least 4 meters between each story. Police follows one jumper who has literally crash-landed in the arena seats, and badly hurt as he is, he outruns the officers while the guards give up when the entire coliseum pelt them with stuff. The guy gets a standing ovation.

Lights go out, and five lighted flashlights make their way to the stage. The place goes crazy. Now the scene resembled some thoughfare in Baghdad at night during heavy fighting. "The Perfectionist" starts, and Michael prances around the stage, very much in command of it all. He's dressed in a black muscle shirt and black leather pants. He looks and acts like part Freddie Mercury, part Robert Goulet in Camelot, fisting the air, doing all the actions, looking like a rock god. From what I've seen in Saga's videos since, he's hiperkinetic on this show compared to those.

One girl jumps to the stage, streaks to Michael and hugs him quickly while security runs to chase her off the stage. Another one tries to, she's actually pushed off the stage before even reaching him. The third one jumps in; Michael dramatically hugs her and deep kisses her (ehem, let me recall the statute of limitations here on behalf of the guy). The place goes berserk.

Jim Gilmour is wearing a striped mariner-like sweater tonight (I'm I remember well, Jim Crichton is also wearing another striped shirt). A guy jumps into the stage, wearing a sweater similar to Jim's. He starts waving the audience. Security pushes him off the stage, and the people in front of him mosh him and give him a thrashing. Only pretty girls allowed onstage, you bozo.

The light show is superb (from what I've seen in Puerto Rico since, only Triumph and Kiss have had the luxury of putting up a more elaborate light show), but there's one first (or maybe second?) for Puerto Rico on this show... a laser setup. As the arena is just reeking of smoke (half of it ganja smoke, it seems), the atmosphere at the stage is literally thick, which makes for an impressive show. A fire marshall's nightmare.

Just as a laser cone forms on top of Michael on one of the songs, the sassy girl and the guy light up a spliff. The ganja smell, which hadn't been recognized by neither my brother nor me, had been everpresent but faint up to now. The smell just lodges into my sinuses, which are brutally clogged by now. As if in cue, the entire row below us lights up; Peter Tosh would be proud. My brother's friend, who I know smokes cigarettes, is offered a puff, but says no. My brother is aghast at the idea. I have no clue; I'm curious about it, but decline politely. But from what I learn in the three years afterwards, I get genuinely high on second-hand smoke soon after. I jump on top of the chair when "Don't Be Late" starts. I start asking questions incoherently to the people around me. I actually interrupt the scruffy girl, who by now is making out with one of the shirtless guys. My brother is embarrased, but doesn't know what to do. Most of the row in front of me is regally stoned, quiet in their seats. This is major trip music; symphonic Moog music performed flawlessly by five major artistes. We're witnessing history.
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In hindsight (Chapter 4)

Postby demf » December 2nd, 2007, 1:12 pm

The actual show was superb. I now realize, with time, what actually made Puerto Rico relate so closely to the band.

Puerto Rico had a different rock and roll upbringing than the United States (or Canada, for that matter) did. Besides the Beatles and psychedelic rock, the band making its biggest imprint on local rock was perhaps Emerson, Lake and Palmer. ELP closed the (infamous by now) Mar y Sol rock festival in 1973, which had five deaths and many logistical nightmares. However, ELP were the crowd favorites (over Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, BB King, and other major artists who played there), and synth rock was the rage here soon after.

Local pop, performed in Spanish (of course) had a few pioneers who ventured into using synths. One of them was Alberto Carrión, a MAJOR local songwriter who among other things, was fortunate enough to play sax for Janis Joplin once. If you see a pic of Alberto in 1975 and see another of Michael in 1981, they look very much alike. Michael is a criminally underrated showman and a great singer, and so is Alberto. Their vocal ranges aren't similar (Alberto is more of a baritone), but their vibrato use is quite similar, also.

Queen and Yes, who in a way were cultural references to understand Saga before them, were perceived as being in another PLANET altogether at the time, and we loved them over here. So when these guys from Ontario dared to come to this spot in the map and offer their work to us, it was lighting a brush fire with a blowtorch. Boston was a huge band in Puerto Rico at the time, and the consensus, whether right or not, was that Boston was essentially just Tom Scholz (the wiz producer and guitarist) and Brad Delp (God bless his soul, the singer), Saga had five fine, solid musicians going on for it, and the live show pretty much proved Miles Copeland's theory that, if you want a solid worldwide following for your band, if it takes having you travel to the ends of the world to earn it, you do it (which worked wonders for The Police soon after).

If you allow me to take a break, I'll finish the story soon...
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Great memories...

Postby Kp4un » May 10th, 2008, 3:50 pm

Those are great memories... I also attended the Roberto Clemente concert in 1981 and became a SAGA convert ever since. Looking forward to more of your recollections...
On the loose...
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