- Tracy Chapman Concert #1- The Catalyst Nightclub in Santa Cruz – By: Coach Brown
It didn’t start very well.
On Saturday morning, we found out that a member of my wife’s family is getting married during Thanksgiving break…..in Arizona. Just the simple fact that we were going to have to travel during the time off was enough to get us in a bad mood. Add to the that the money that we then spent looking for airfare, and you had the workings of a pitiful start to a well planned weekend. We finally were on the road by Noon.
We planned to stop by at some of the wineries in the Santa Cruz mountains to task some of the outstanding Pinot Noir that the area is becoming well known for. The drive down was fairly uneventful. Once in Saratoga, we took a detour from the highway and drove through some of nice neighborhoods of Los Gatos and Saratoga. I didn’t realize that this area has some serious money attached to it. From what we saw, Saratoga might easily be the richest part of the Bay Area, with mammoth homes sitting on acres of rolling hills and soft valleys. I was very impressed. We made it to David Bruce, home of well known pinots, at around 3:45, and left soon after, rather unimpressed. It might be because we are very spoiled living in Mendocino County, and frequenting the many establishments here, and in Sonoma County.
After a check in at the Best Western in downtown Santa Cruz (nice room, except for the nasty carpet), we decided to explore the downtown and grab a bite to eat. I haven’t been to Santa Cruz in about 15 years, and I was actually interested in what I found. It has the student feel of Chico, the false progressivism of Berkeley, and the tourist feel of Santa Barbara. Students were out in force on Saturday, and not in the mellow mood that I expected. It must have been Rush Week at U.C. Santa Cruz, because legion after legion of sorority girls passed by our Tracy line, singing and carrying on like idiots. It was the typical bimbo show where ladies had underwear on the outside of their clothing and messages like “I like sucking dick” printed on their t-shirts. They would come up to arbitrary people and ask them stupid questions. Then there is the false progessivism that is so prevalent in today’s society. It was fun to watch the people in a used bookstore (that charges tourist type prices) complain about the corporate system while they had a Starbucks in their hand, walking to the Baja Fresh Grill, and smoking from a pack of Camel cigarettes. Unfortunately, this attitude made its way into the Catalyst during the concert. The younger population in the back was constantly noisy, to the point where opening act Ben Taylor made a comment about it. Also, you had the ‘enraged, obnoxious lesbian’ act also in full swing on Saturday. A large group of girls in their 20’s spent the night bashing men, complaining how hard it was to be a ‘white lesbian in Santa Cruz’, and screaming at Tracy Chapman that her ass was great looking in jeans. The fact that they were lesbian was not the issue. The fact that they acted like they were entitled to be idiots because they were lesbians was the problem.
The Catalyst was a small venue. The sell out had 800 people and we were fortunate to be standing about 10 feet away from Tracy, about 2 rows back from the front. The acoustics in the Catalyst were awful. Often, Tracy’s voice was drowned out by the music and muffled by bad equipment, including a constant hum. The Fillmore’s sound on Sunday was much clearer. Add to it the lighting that stared many in the front straight in the face, and the potential was there for a real bitch of a concert.
Fortunately, the artists saved the day. Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor and Carley Simon) opened up with a simple 8 song set that was actually quite good. It was better than East Mountain South, the opening act from last year. He sounds a lot like James Taylor, and his stage presence is very mellow. The music is also mellow, with the exception of the song “Boyfriend”, which is an excellent source for a laugh.
Although Ben started on time (9 p.m.), Tracy did not. The 10 p.m. start time was 10:35 when she finally took the stage. Again, potential for serious anger. Yet again, the artist saved the day. Tracy was dressed in her usual black blouse with blue jeans outfit. Along with her was Joe Gore (an excellent guitarist), Quinn on drums, and an Asian woman who I did not recognize on bass. The following is a set list that might be a little out of order.
-Why? (Strong, simple beginning)
-Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight (Strong showing, lots of crowd participation)
-Changes (Well done!)
-Smoke and Ashes (Very nicely done)
-America (Strong showing, Quinn was really into it)
-Fast Car (Seemed to fade a little bit)
-House of the Rising Sun (She was ok here, interesting song)
-Never Yours (Very mellow)
-Sub City (Brought back a stronger vibe)
-Before Easter (New and a little unimpressive)
-Say Hallejuah (Nice job and energetic)
-Talkin About a Revolution (Crowd pleaser)
-Telling Stories (Lots of crowd singing again. She really started to get into it)
-Another Sun (Totally rocked the house. Full band was going nuts)
-Give Me One Reason (Blues version, then rock version. Excellent ending that had her and Joe jumping all over the stage. Really rocked the house)
-Lovesong from The Cure (Very interesting, I think she pulled it off well)
-The Promise (She did it alone, which was fine. I liked the background singers from her last tour better)
Without the venue problems, the concert was a 9.5 easily, with a seriously strong ending. We were buzzing on walk back to the hotel about how she got better and better as the night went on. Joe Gore is a kick to watch as he becomes one with his guitar and seems to play in a trance-like state. I thought her 2003 Fillmore concert was near perfect, but she had a back-up singer, a percussionist, and keyboard player during that tour. It did make a difference because it gave a little more richness to the music. Still, the concert is only slightly below the 2003 Fillmore for excellence. My wife and I were looking forward to our Sunday night experience.
Read his review from the Fillmore Tracy Chapman Concert #2- The Fillmore in San Francisco
VENUE: The Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 – USA (Capacity: 800)
PROMOTER: The Catalyst Nightclub
OPENING ACT: Ben Taylor