Thursday I saw an advertisement for a free concert at Memorial Park on Friday evening. After I overcame the surprise of not having heard of this before hand I decided to check it out.
Unlike the other two free events I've attended at memorial park (Feist and Gomez), this one was crowded when I arrived twenty minutes before the start of the show. I think there were a few reasons for this: school is out, the weather was cooperating, and the acts were known by most people over 40.
The day was pretty hot but not nearly as bad as earlier this week. The place was crowded and it took me a while to find a spot near the stage that had a somewhat unobstructed view. The crowd was a sea of Harley Davidson paraphernalia wearing, tie dyed, concert shirt, tattoo revealing, 50-somethings with a healthy mix of other age groups. Beach balls were flying and, as the sun went down, the crowd became a star field of glowing chem lights thanks to the free 'glow necklaces' that were given out. The sun going down also brought relief from the heat but this wasn't until th end of the second act. I was prepared this time with food, water, a hat, and sunglasses.
The fun started with a first act that, like most free events I've been to, was a local artist. Night Wing is the local Offutt Air Force Base country/rock cover band. They started with an impressive rendition of the National Anthem, performed by Technical Sergeant Lara Murdzia accompanied by a solo guitar. Night Wing did a half hour of typical cover songs which bordered on the mediocre with the exception of TS Murdzia who has a great singing voice. The fact the whole band was in Air Force coveralls seemed a little strange.
After a very short intermission the Guess Who took the stage. Actually I would rename them 40% Guess Who as only two of the five members are from the original Guess Who. This is actually saying a lot as the Guess Who formed in 1962 and, having been in the band for 47 years, the old farts still rocked. They were pretty good and they matched their old 60s-70s sound pretty faithfully. The crowd obviously enjoyed the band as I did. There were a few in the crowd who looked like that had 'prepared' themselves for this dip back into the 60s. This kept the police busy patrolling the crowd.
The third act was Grand Funk Railroad. (Back in 2008 I almost paid to see them at the Chumash Casino. This time waiting paid off) Like the Guess Who, only 40% of the members were original 1968 band members. Didn't bother me much as they rocked. They did a lot more stuff that I'd never heard before which caught me by surprise. I'm not a Grand Funk expert but I expect more of the greatest hit list. It was kind of refreshing to have a mix of electric blues mixed in with the more known songs like "Locomotion" and "We're An American Band". Because of this mix, I was once again surprised to find out that I knew more of the Guess Who songs than I did Grand Funk songs. I went in expecting the opposite.
Two songs in the drummer, one of the originals from 1968 did a hard core drum solo. He then went on to sing a couple of the songs and play the drums for the entire show. I wish I have his endurance when I'm this age.
At one point during "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)", the mike cut out and after a brief audience disorientation, the crowd picked up where Max Carl left off. When the mike came back on the crowd and Max were right in sync. It helps to have old fans who know all the lyrics.
After the last song a barrage of fireworks was shot off, an early July Fourth celebration. I have to say that Omaha knows how to do fireworks shows. At one point I had to squint because the explosions over the stage were so bright. It rivaled the new years eve show last year.
There was singer on stage that was not in any of the bands but performed with all of them. Actually, she was on the stage for over four hours. She was the signer. Yep, she not only signed the master of ceremonies, she signed all the song lyrics for the entire concert. I can't remember ever seeing this before.
A great concert. It always helps if you are familiar with the acts. Can't wait for the next free concert. Pictures of this one can be found here.