On July 3rd it was the day before the great American celebration of the 4th when the rain started to fall. Many chose to hide at home, but some braved the elements to catch a glimpse of a storm on stage. Eric Burdon, the provocative and bluesy lead singer of the popular music group The Animals, was in Minnesota trying to stop the rain... And he did!
Located far from the masses was a stage aptly named, The Woodstock Stage, presented by WCCO radio. It had a painted up 1960s VW van up front and a list of performers that would have caused a riot when that van was hip. One had to brave a long walk past The Grassroots, Four Tops, and a million hungry people feasting to find the stage.
For a moment we stopped at The Grassroots to hear a few songs on the Kool108 stage up front. The rain started and the umbrellas popped up, making for a difficult view of the outdoor stage. After leaving and following the music and stream of people we walked past The Four Tops finishing their set. One drawback was that there were so many great bands playing at once. This forced a decision to press forward to catch the complete Animals show.
The rain was falling at full force when Eric Burdon and The Animals took the stage, and it couldn't have been more appropriate for the old blues man. Once a rough, tough, British invading band, the years of wisdom were showing. The audience had grown past it's mop top enthusiasm, and brought the next generation to join in. There were fans who wanted to hear the song that they all enjoyed and was the soundtrack of their lives; "The House Of The Rising Sun"! Of course many great songs would have to come first.
When Eric finished his first song the crowd lit up and the rain began to lighten a bit. We were treated to the great hits of The Animals, and the signature voice of Eric Burdon. He has a snarl in his sound that makes him the bluseist guy to come out of England since Bo Diddley visited there and changed music history. The Animals were a sign of the time in the mid-sixties. In England during the early sixties working class heros' were gobbling up blues albums like drugs. Once someone had a copy of a famous record it was played until the grooves in the LP were gone. Several bands came to America in search of their Mecca of recording studios to get that gritty blues sound. Eventually the bass player (Chas Chandler) left the group The Animals and became the manager of Jimi Hendrix, a personal friend of Eric Burdon's.
The Animal's first song reflected their influence, they played Boom, Boom by John Lee Hooker, a bluesman if there ever was one. Later we were treated to a reggae version of some of their hits. Another highlight of the show was the song, "We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place". During the song I looked across the audience and noticed a man with no umbrella standing in the rain with a leather vest on. The back of his vest had a large POW/MIA design and several Vietnam patches. He had his arms in the air and was singing at the top of his lungs. As the rain stopped his face was still wet on his cheeks. I imagine the song had great significance to him as he left soon there after.
Eric and The Animals toyed with the crowd playing some great new material. His new music is reflective on his journey and still has an Animals sound. As the rain stopped completely and the umbrellas were lowered they broke into "The House Of The Rising Sun". The sun wasn't out, but the crowds energy made it rise. Everyone was singing along and paying tribute to the band who had changed everyone's lives so long ago. Today young people burn CDs of classic Animals albums and play them until they are scratched. They trade stories of when Rock & Roll broke through barriers that were established over hundreds of years. Some come and brave the elements to see for themselves what the young Brits did when Bo Diddley came to England. Others come to remember something that can never be described, and leave never being the same.