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Alvin Lee Band at the Hullabaloo 1983 in Rensselaer, New York

The Venue in Hell:

The  Alvin Lee Band is just across the Hudson River from Albany, New York, at a place called The Hullabaloo.

On the good side of town in Troy you have the Rensselaer Polytechnic Insitute situated inside a plush neighborhood of historic value and full of quarter of a million dollar houses on every street, but where Alvin is playing tonight is the railway station, the whores, and every practicing alcoholic, drug dealer and criminal in our tri county area. If Alvin had a craving for any of these things or underworld activity he's come to the right place.

This part of Rensselaer reminds me of any movie by Boris Karloff, Alfred Hitchcock and Christopher Lee all rolled into one, every  twist of evil, fate and horror can happen here at any moment.This place reeks of murder, mayhem and disaster.

Alvin's song "The Devil's Screaming" ain't got nothin' on this sewer and Charlie Daniels Devil stands a better chance in Georgia than in this God-forsaken toilet of a town and this is just the parking lot! 

You would think that we'd feel a little safer inside the building but it was just as bad if not worse. The only thing that saved us from turning around and going back across the river as fast as possible were two things, first my desire to see Alvin Lee play that big red Gibson guitar of his, up close and personal and second my not telling the others, that I had convinced to come with me, the truth, that I was scared shit-less!

I keep reassuring them (and myself) by saying "ah, your with me nothing bad can happen to you here, I'll protect you, you're in good hands, we're here to have a good time, relax". It's a tough act when you also have to preface it with, forget about that dried blood on the freak-in wall, and that real dried up human eyeball that someone neglected to sweep up off the floor from the last slaughter that took place in here. I felt like the Wizzard of Oz in Hell, pay no attention to the hairs standing up on the back of your neck and arms or your heart beating twice as fast as normal,  your desire to puke is all in your head, stop worrying will you.

I knew all about what I was getting into before I even left the house, I put on my heavy police issue motorcycle jacket that weighs in at the better part of ten pounds and prepaired myself for any conflict that might arise during the evening. It would've been a much different story had I not brought my little sister and her husband with me, this just increased the level of stress and danger ten fold.

 

The Venue is a Barn:

No this isn't a continuation of what a Hell Hole this place was, you got the background and feeling correct already, I mean it really is or was a real barn at some point. The old cow or horse stalls are now used for seating and you have to walk up a ramp to get there just like the cattle did, once upon a time. At the top of the ramp is a landing, we take a left and walk about fifty feet and we're now looking down at the stage which is no more than ten to fifteen feet away and we sit at the table that's in prime view.

Wood floors, ceiling and heavy wooden beams for support all over the place and it reminds me of Alvin's own barn that he calls Space Studios back in England, from the photos I saw inside the On the Road to Freedom album. Now my mind and emotions are changing course like quicksilver, from fear and hyper awareness for our safty to "hey we're really here, we made it" and Alvin is only a short time and distance away.

The only point that I'm not really sure about is Alvin's tour bus, because my memory is fuzzy about whether it was along side the building when we got there or it was there a short while later. 

The opening act The Lazers:

A friend of mine knew one of the band members and told me that this band was going places, they were going to be huge (not by way of this pig sty in Rennselaer, as far as I was concerned).

The band comes on, they're out to make a point, they're rough and tough and they all want to be stars. I believe they thought they were at Madison Square Garden opening up for Aerosmith or some such thing. The lead singer started spitting on the amps, and blowing snot all over the place (maybe a little cocaine back stage) who knows, who cares, we're all there to see The Alvin Lee Band, to Hell with these people, since when does Alvin Lee need a warm up act?

Three songs into the Lazers' set and the people in front of the stage are getting more restless by the minute and in-between songs the audience starts in with "Alvin, Alvin, Alvin" to which the response from the lead singer is "who gives a "F" about some has-been-once-was guitar player from some old band, we're what's happening right now" basically saying "look at us, ain't we cool, we're hot!"  Not a chance pin head, you're outta--here--gone--history!  As I said three songs into their set and the audience is already bored and revolting in no uncertain terms. A hot exchange ensued between the band and the audience. I grabbed for my leather jacket once again and back into defence mode I headed.

The men on the stage started saying FU to the audience and the same FU was coming back to the band in spades, switch-blades and guns would be next and I'm thinking about protecting my little sister and nothing besides.

The band got pissed off and left the stage an hour early and the audience erupted with savage elation over this victory. Now I myself was in an emotional void between feeling sorry for the warm up band which were really very good but so arrogant as to need a damn good wacking and this crowd of savages who were craving blood, choas and violence just to satisfy their need for primal recreation and lust. A Roman Wilderness of lions and Christians and at this point I can't tell who is who any longer and I really believe if all Hell breaks loose I'm sure the police won't make any effort to come here until the cold light of day or better yet noon time tomorrow. We're on a dead end road in more ways than one and once again I'm reminded that we're stranded and completely on our own, there is no excitement in this kind of fear and unrest and these natives are hunting heads.

 

Where's Alvin:

The warm up band is long since gone and the pressure is rising and rising, not just in anticipation of the Gibson Guitar Wizzard, but because you can tell by the age of this AC/DC crowd they just want action and the name Alvin Lee doesn't mean shit to a tree here. I would venture to say maybe fifty people know of Ten Years After's music, fifty have heard his name somewhere and the rest are just taking up space. In a total audience of two hundred people there is nothing to be gained here and I just hope this audience doesn't turn ugly on our hero or we're all going to get hurt before we get out of here.

It's now been over an hour and this barn is now a Miami pressure cooker, like waiting for Jim Morrison and the Doors back when all Hell broke loose there.

So where is Alvin? I don't have a clue, maybe he's waiting for the money to come down, having a drink or three, having a little taste of some stash from one of the local dealers, doing an interview, or maybe keeping company with one of Rensselear's finest street walkers. All speculation and everything that crossed my mind in this very uncomfortable and long wait. There is a point when anticipation turns directly into agony and that's where we're at right now and everyone is pissed-off to the maximum.

 

The Concert:

I don't remember anyone introducing Alvin, all I recall is him lumbering out on stage acting very guilty and with a look of attitude on his face that said  "I'm sorry but I'll make it up to all of you right now I promise." 

At one time I had a list of all the songs he played on this night, but it has long since disappeared, but I can tell you he played about thirty songs. Thirty songs one after the other with no break in between, no sitting down, no half assed rush through and he did it all, for the better part of two hours on that barn floor stage. No false pretence, no acting the part of the star, no arrogance to be found, just the real Alvin singing and having a great time. At one point he leaned over the edge of the stage to shake the sweat off of his head and onto the teenage girls down below and he threw a guitar pick in their direction but other than that it was all straight ahead Rock and Roll Blues flat out and full force.

The long wait for him to take the stage took us all about four songs before he was truly forgiven and this locomotive was off and rolling on true Alvin Lee steam, desire and passion. What ever happened backstage or in his tour bus no longer mattered to any of us, we were rocking and rolling along.

Harmonica, a little drum stick action on his guitar but again nothing fancy or phoney. Alvin was on fire and on this night he was hitting on every spark plug.  In between one song he said "is this better than MTV or what?" Of course I understood what he meant, a live performance is always better than an idiot box TV set any day of the week but I was thinking beyond his quick comment and felt sorry that Alvin may be locked into a time zone that no longer provides any realistic promise for his career and that's why my hero has been so overlooked for so long. I thought one video on MTV from Alvin Lee would put him and Ten Years After back into the record bins for all time, never to be forgotten again but right now Alvin appeared to be stuck. 

On this tour was a drummer (of course), if it was Tom Compton, I hope I would've remembered but I have no idea who he was and nothing was memorable. It was the bass player who was the one to keep up with Alvin and share the same spotlight---his name is Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels!!!  That man is "F-in" crazy and not since Leo Lyons has anyone come close to beating up a bass guitar like that or been able to push Alvin along into new areas of music or to new heights. Just incredible.

Imagine attending a concert such as this, Alvin did everything except cook a midnight snack and tuck us all in for the night.

 

Encore:

The encore was obligatory, in the sense that Alvin gave it his all the first time around and there was no need what's so ever for him to return to the stage due to any obligation that wasn't already met in that two hour span. I personally clapped my hands raw in appreciation only, and not trying to persuade him to come back to give us more. We didn't deserve more because he owed us nothing. In fact if I were him I would have grabbed the nearest chair come back out on stage, sat down and just soaked in all the love and respect that was in the air. Alvin not only earned it he deserved it as well, that's why I loved the man and his great talent, on this night he made me happy and proud to be in the same room with him.

 

Time To Go Home:

We were the first ones there and the last ones to leave.

The parking lot was now as vacent as a cemetary and Alvin and his bus long since gone on to other venues, rolling on through the night.

This venue is the place where "shadows really do run from themselves" as the song by Cream goes and I'm more than happy to be getting out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do, sings Eric Burdon in my musical mind.   

My little sister finally got to see for herself the Alvin Lee part of Ten Years After, having had to listen to his music for five years straight as her bedroom was right next to mine. Her husband liked the show but is still a big fan of Nils Lofgren, all in all it was one incredible evening never to be forgotten.

 

Thank you Alvin, I was spellbound, elated and enthralled beyond words to watch you do what you do, and do it better than anyone else.

David Willey

Our Thanks to Gary Stringer for the ticket stub

 

 

 

HUDSON VALLEY NEWSBEAT (newspaper)

FROM MARCH 16, 1983 "THE CHANCE" (Venue) in POUGHKEEPSIE, NEW YORK

ALVIN LEE: GUITAR SAINT IN A SYN-FILLED WORLD

Most years, the tail end of February is seriously dreary. The snow on the ground has taken on a West Point grey hue, the temperatures shoot from near 50 down to the low teens, and everybody has a cold. The last week of February 1983, though, brought us Koo Stark's left nipple in Time Magazine, the astoundingly funny team of Andy Kaufman and Fearless Freddie Blassie on David Letterman and Alvin Lee's blistering performance at the Chance in Poughkeepsie. With his old red axe and the latest stripped down version of Ten Years After, Alvin Lee has given an awful lot of straight ahead rock fans at least a brief respite from those anguished prayers at night…"Now I lay me down to sleep, O Lord our God whither goest Rock?

From the moment that Lee walked onstage and sang the first line, "One of these days…," the crowd at both sets roared. People in chairs leaned forward and tapped their feet. Those caught standing boogied and air guitarist filled the club. Why? The man has never had an album that everybody in the junior class had to buy, and nine times out of ten, when radio stations get a Ten Years After request, the jocks will spin the Woodstock soundtrack version of Lee's "Goin´ Home." So how can this pleasant, plain spoken Englishman who dresses like Joe fan inspire such happy lunacy? The answer lies, I believe, in the lines from "Rock `n´ Roll Music To The World"; I tell the truth / I ain't no star / I only shout / and leave the rest to my guitar…

Just what does he leave to his guitar? Every classic hook in rock - Carl Perkins, Leiber and Stroller, Jerry Lee Lewis, bridged by those fantastic runs that made Lee famous. I caught up with Alvin between sets, to try to find out a little bit about the man behind the fingers that reeled off "Something Like That," "Goin´ Home" (of course), and a version of "Hey Joe" that, after the initial cheers and whistles, produced a short audience wide gasp of awe; a millisecond vision of Heaven and Hendrix. Alvin Lee belongs to a simpler, braver era of rock, when every new lick was a New Discovery, a flag on Everest. In light of all the trends that seem to originate in England, like ska, the reggae revival, the synth bands, and rockabilly a la Stray Cats, I especially wanted to know if anybody was playing the blues anymore. His answer was tinged with disappointment. "Well…some are playing, but it's not catching on. People aren't content with being musicians anymore. They want to be rock stars. They're afraid if they don't have purple hair, or act outrageous, they won't get noticed." I asked him if perhaps there might be a resurgence of basic, solid rock in the offing, what with Eric Clapton's new "Money and Cigarettes" release, and Jeff Beck's working on an album, and Jimmy Page is getting back to work. "People ask me all the time, "Are you making a comeback?", and I haven't been anywhere. I mean, I've been playing all the while," Lee said. I said, "You'd think that they'd be banking on the old masters, with the record industry in so much trouble," and Alvin cut me off in mid sentence, and said "I think it's good the record industry's in trouble. "He did not offer to explain the statement, and I felt there was no need to. In an industry obsessed with the Grails of Trendy Sounds, Marketable Concepts, and Super-Groups, there doesn't seem to be much room for a man who wants to play small clubs because the people are closer. I asked him if he enjoyed playing at "The Chance". "Well yeah," he said, "except for those tables down in front. I saw all these people on the sides going wild, and right there in front, everyone was sitting. I want people right there in front of the stage, the closer the better." The tables were gone for the second set, and the floor area was packed, which makes me believe that everyone went home happy. Even Alvin Lee.

Exciting as was Lee's playing , it would have been incomplete without the two members of Ten Years After, (he of course means Ten Years Later) drummer Tom Compton and bassist Fuzzy Samuels. They are ultra tight, and combined a steady discipline and a joyous abandon that I haven't seen since the Grambling band did that Coke Commercial.

Alvin Lee was warmed up by "Enola Gay" a three piece band from New York City, whose biggest asset was the guitarist's haircut (first runner up for Best Keith Richards for the month of February. The original Enola Gay was the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Need I say more?

 

 

Ten Years Later - Miami, Florida - May 26, 1979 
Photos contributed by HERB STAEHR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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