August 9, 1972 (Wednesday)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It would have had to be August 9, 1972 that I saw Badfinger. They were actually booed by quite a few people for not playing enough of their hits. I also remember Joey telling the audience 'where to go' at one point, and a number of interesting episodes between Pete and the substitute drummer...
I went to the show with my future wife and the bass player of my band (with his future wife) where we had seats in the balcony. I can't recall the opening acts performances at all. When Badfinger finally came on, there was a long delay, as I recall. They had continual sound problems. The mics were feeding back and it sounded like the soundman was mixing as the band played, so various instruments and vocals kept coming in and out. Pete Ham was clearly frustrated by his, at times, inaudible acoustic guitar and piano and I think they had to change Tom's amp at one point.
O'Keefe Centre, now the Hummingbird Centre... but still a concrete audio-nightmare, was, and is, notorious for its poor sound. When I played there with Aretha Franklin in the mid '90s, you couldn't hear stage left if you were standing on stage right, and we had a sound check with monitors, so it must have been hellish to hear onstage in 1972. Without any wood in the place, there is no bass-depth, and everything sounds high-end. So, if the sound man doesn't know the room, the feedback just whistles around the place. That's the sound that Badfinger had until the end of the concert.
It seems quite probable that they began with Better Days.
No Matter What was next, I think, because that's the first time I remember Pete looking back at Rob Stawinski, right after the guitar intro, which he came in at almost 2x the tempo. They played all their songs faster live, but this was extreme.
In Rob Stawinski's defense, the monitor mixes were probably as bad as the house mix, but I still can't fathom how he came in at almost twice the tempo of Ham's guitar and vocal introduction to No Matter What. If eyes could kill, Stawinski would have died immediately. Besides turning around and staring at him between verses, Pete had to go back at and visibly conduct the tempo to Rob, with the neck of the guitar. It was so obvious to the audience that it was painful to watch.
Pete went over to the grand piano and they played Take It All. It took a while to get the piano sound, and there was a lot of feedback (or no sound at all) on Pete's vocal mic, and when Rob came in, the tempo just took off again, and Pete put his head down on the keyboard afterwards. There's no doubt that the crowd picked up on it.
Just when you thought it had to come together at some point, Stawinski came out from behind the kit to play congas for a ballad, with Tom on claves, Joey still on electric guitar, and Pete on acoustic for We're For the Dark. They all sat on stools. I think this is where they changed Tommy's amp, too. There seemed to be a lot of commotion, with roadies and techs behind them... I remember Tommy looking back at them (and maybe wandering around back there). The timing was all over the place, with poor Pete giving the drummer "the ray" throughout the tune.
Then they went back to their electric set (with Tom having a new amp, I believe?) and they played either Feelin' Alright or Suitcase. I think it was Feelin' Alright, during which the sound man must have been EQing the new amp, because it just sounded like a big mess. The roadies continued trying to fix the technical problems.
Badfinger started jamming after that. It was a straight-ahead 12-bar blues, but it wasn't very together and it sounded amateurish, with the tech guys roaming around behind them, trying to right the (crimson) ship.
That's when the booing started, with Joey telling certain members of the audience where to go, and that they were Badfinger, and they'd play whatever the hell they wanted... or something to that effect. He said, "We're just going to jam, now!" I remember Pete looked devastated.
Finally, Joey said something like "F*** off... We're f***ing Badfinger and we'll play what we want, and if you don't like it, then you can leave!" And a few people did (amidst more cat-calls from the house and rebuttals from Joey). I really thought somebody was going to jump on the stage, but it didn't happen. After the jam, only the original loudmouths continued to boo, and were escorted out by security. I think the rest of the audience felt genuinely sorry for the band.
Unbelievably, Badfinger stayed on stage. And then an amazing thing happened. From my recollection, I'm pretty sure they played Baby Blue and Day After Day back to back. Day After Day absolutely brought the house down! Those two tunes were so strong. We were dumbfounded. They got such a big hand. The sound had finally come together; the instrumentation and harmonies were so clear; it was if there had been two bands on stage... a boogie-band with bad sound, and an incredibly well polished Badfinger with melodies and hooks to die for. They had the audience firmly back on their side, which gave them a rousing send-off. They left the stage to a shocked audience ready for an encore, which never happened!
It's too bad about the sound and the equipment problems (which I'm sure contributed to the drummer's poor playing), but they did end very strongly and I could still hear the genius (especially) of Pete's songwriting and performance.
I'll never forget it.
Rick Skol (2006)
© Copyright 2006 Tom Brennan's Badfinger Library
(TBBL). All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission is prohibited.
All trademarks used on TBBL are the property of their respective owners.