Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: Eddie Money - It's Only Money at State Theatre, St. Petersburg

Thursday night's show at State Theatre proves a disappointment.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

I have to preface this with a few caveats: I am a huge Eddie Money fan, and have seen him perform countless times. I believe he's a very generous and gregarious performer, and is gracious with his time in every market he tours. Money is a brilliant composer and lyricist, and I genuinely like the guy. That being said, his show on Thursday night at State Theatre was… well, painful to witness.

To be honest, I didn’t even know until the day of the show that he was playing in town. A friend put it together last minute, calling to ask us to join him and some others for drinks and the show. At $10 admission, we figured why not? Eddie Money’s always been the consummate professional; he performs the songs he knows everyone wants to hear and does it in an entertaining way.

The lineup included a local vocalist and a couple of local bands, and The Rockstar Riders out of St. Louis, Missouri, who tour with Eddie Money. (The name of this last band was bit of foreshadowing, in hindsight, my reasons for which will become clear as you read on.) The show was billed as Eddie Money - It's Only Money: The Stories Behind the Hits, “Eddie will bring you his favorite hits - and the stories behind them - with an intimate, audience-interactive presentation.” Fair enough. Drinks, hanging out with fun people, Eddie Money at a small venue, close to home… sounds like a decent way to spend a Thursday night: I’m in.

Eddie took the stage looking a little rough, but in a “rock star” kind of way: oxford shirt, faded jeans and a tie that was just a smidgen too wide to be fashionable. His hair was disheveled and his skin a little wan, but his smile was warm and his demeanor enthusiastic. The guy is 62 years old and has been rocking for over 35 years, so he gets a pass on maintaining a youthful glow. He moved to the spotlight front and center of the darkened stage and started riffing about the early days in his trademark Brooklyn-accented smoky-smooth voice, a light piano accompaniment behind — very Behind The Music-ish. “I was in a band before the Beatles were,” he gushes, “I love Michael Jackson and all, but for me, Elvis was The King!” He talked about writing “Two Tickets To Paradise” over a six-month period, only to have the label tell him it had no commercial value, and subsequently writing “Baby Hold On” in just two days. After a few minutes of strolling down memory lane, Money called for the piano to drop out and the house lights to come up so he could field questions from the audience. A general cacophony erupted from the crowd, leaving Money looking a little overwhelmed and confused, but he picked out one question relating to his service as a police officer. “Being a policeman is hard work," he said. "I mean, being a fireman or an EMS worker is tough, too, but a lot of people don’t like cops. It’s different.”

So ended the “intimate, audience-interactive presentation.”

Money brought the band on the stage at that point, which consisted of a drummer and bassist he’d brought with him, a local guitarist and backup singer he grabbed from the opening acts… and someone Eddie Money introduced as “Rehab Jesse.”

Jesse, it turns out, is Eddie’s 24-year-old daughter, a talented vocalist in her own right. There was some general familial ribbing back and forth, as Eddie shared with us that Jesse just wanted to get her car back, which he'd “give back to her when she stops hanging around with those boys that are no good... they're garbage-heads.” Uh oh. Did they just go The Osbournes on us?, I thought. Eddie went on to say he'd just completed driving school and had gotten his license back, admonishing the concert goers not to drink and drive tonight, which Jesse enthusiastically seconded. Gibes in this theme came up a couple of times, making this “intimate” event feel a little voyeuristic and uncomfortable. It reminded me a little of that Ryan and Tatum O’Neal reality debacle. Nevertheless, again, 35 years of rocking buys one a lot of leeway.

Eddie introduced the first song, “Two Tickets To Paradise,” and the band launched into the trademark intro, the guitar line powering through, the drums driving, the crowd went wild… and Eddie replaced his mic on the stand and stepped away. What?! Jesse Money, not Eddie Money, croons, “Got a surprise especially for you / Something that both of us have always wanted to do." Jesse, in fact, sang the whole song, with her dad aping for the crowd and dancing around. To be fair, she did a great job and has a powerful voice, but damn: that was the one song I actually wanted to hear, and I’m disappointed that I had to hear it performed by what really amounted to an Eddie Money cover band.

That was just the first song in the set, though. The night was still young.

Wrong. Second, third, fourth song: still all-Jesse, all the time. At one point, Eddie stepped up to his mic to add back-up vocals — but the sound guy had turned his mic off!

At that point, we made a fast exit, so I can’t say whether Eddie took over lead vocals later in the set, or returned to his story-telling format, but I’m guessing not.

As we walked out — and we weren’t alone — we overheard several fans expressing disappointment, some who were young enough that they'd never seen him before; others who, like us, had seen him play before and were hoping for the same.

Frankly, I felt like someone had pulled one over on me. Had the show been billed as “Jesse Money with Eddie Money”, or even “Eddie Money presents Jesse Money,” I may or may not have gone, but at least I would have known what I was in for. It was the disingenuousness of it that left me disappointed, disillusioned, and wishing that the last time I'd seen him play actually was the last time, and not this time.

I realize it was only $10; it’s only money, but still.

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