A few weeks back, I dropped a reference to a Bob Marley and the Wailers tour stop at Kleinhans Music Hall, said to have taken place on June 11, 1978. My source for the Kleinhans date is the mini-facsimile of the Marley and the Wailers “Kaya ‘78” tour book included in the new-ish “Easy Skanking in Boston ‘78” box set, which places the gig at the home of the BPO on June 11, 1978.
It appears the Marley & the Wailers tossed the script out the tour bus window somewhere along the long “Kaya” tour, for the dates in the “Easy Skanking” box set don’t match the historical record. Marley never made it to Buffalo on that tour. The Kleinhans gig was cancelled, as were several others during the run, reportedly due to personal issues involving guitarist Junior Marvin.
Marley and the Wailers did perform in Buffalo, though. On May 6, 1976, the band strode the boards at the dearly departed Century Theatre, as part of the “Rastaman Vibration” tour. A few of you wrote to me with your own recollections of that show, and I thank you for sharing. (I’m also incredibly envious, because you caught a piece of history in the flesh, and Marley and Co. were, at the time, one of the hottest ensembles going.)
So Marley and Kleinhans never met, but ruminating on how incredible that band would have sounded within the hallowed (and acoustically pristine) halls of our BPO’s home led me to recall some of the incredible rock and pop shows that took place in that venue, mostly during the ‘70s, when I didn’t live here and would have been too young to attend even if I had been a Buffalonian. (Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and the New York Dolls – the list is incredibly impressive.)
Kleinhans stopped doing much in the way of rock shows a long time ago – a transcendent performance by indie-rock icons Death Cab for Cutie in 2012 was a beautiful anomaly. But in recent years, a subdivision of the Kleinhans family known as BPO Nation has been seeking to restore the balance by presenting a broad array of non-classical shows.
Country royalty in the form of Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard on separate nights; progressive music from Zappa Plays Zappa and Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman; jazz fusion from DMS, an all-star outfit featuring keyboardist George Duke, bassist Marcus Miller and saxophonist David Sanborn, with drummer Louis Cato, in what would sadly prove to be one of Duke’s final live performances; folk legend Joan Baez; and pop artists like Fiona Apple and Ben Folds Five – all have performed BPO Nation-produced shows at Kleinhans over the past several years.
I ventured to Kleinhans on Sunday evening to catch the massive production that was the BPO Nation-presented “Brit Floyd: Space & Time World Tour Celebrating 50 Years of Pink Floyd.” Not surprisingly, the first aspect of the show to grab my attention was the incredibly high quality of the sound inside Kleinhans. This building is a treasure – the BPO sounds wonderful here, but the hall’s acoustic design also is incredibly friendly to rock music.
Brit Floyd – as the name suggests, an all-British tribute to Pink Floyd – offered a dazzling multimedia presentation employing lights, lasers, dry ice, a towering video screen and a flawless reproduction of tunes from every nook and cranny of Pink Floyd’s canon and career. The sound quality was sublime, and the fact that Kleinhans was packed suggests that there is certainly a market for more rock-based shows at the venue.
So bring ‘em on, BPO Nation. Let the Marleys, Zeppelins and Springsteens of the current generation take a crack at playing one of North America’s finest venues.