Above Ground 3 took place at the Fonda Theater December 20, 2021. The Fonda, is located on Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles, California. This historic venue was originally opened in the 1920’s and was re-opened in 2012. This was the second Above Ground at this location.
Above Ground is the the brainchild of Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison. This event to benefit Musicares was started as a response to the deaths of way too many of their friends dying way to young. Musicares helps with mental health, alcohol and drug issues by getting people the help they need, when they need it at no cost. This organization saves lives!
The premise of Above Ground is they choose two iconic albums and a cast of their musician friends to play those albums from start to finish. This year, they chose Lou Reed’s “Transformer” and The Sex Pistols “Never Mind the Bollocks“. These are albums that helped form them into the musicians they are today. While Dave and Billy were the constants during the show, each song had a slightly different lineup. Josh Freese and Erik Eldenius played drums, interchanging regularly.
Transformer was up first. As the curtain lifted, Corey Taylor swung into “Vicious” like he had performed it a thousand times before. With Dave Navarro, Billy Morrison and Steve Stevens on guitars, this version shredded. “Andy’s Chest” was next with Courtney Taylor channeling his best Lou Reed. Billy Morrison took the vocal reigns next for “Perfect Day”. Billy really is an underrated vocalist and proves it throughout the evening. Mark McGrath took charge of a rocking version of “Hanging Around”.
“Walk on the Wild Side” is undisputedly the biggest song on Transformer. So, who would they get to do this one? The one and only Anthony Kiedis! This was the first time in decades Kiedis and Navarro shared the stage. The chemistry was incredible. Even more amazing was Chris Chaney‘s double bass line. Watching him play two bass lines on one bass was pretty awesome. Up next was “Make Up”. Micky Avalon proved he can sing as well as rap as he smoothly flowed through the song with ease.
“Wagon Wheel” brought out Laura Mace front and center. Normally a backup singer for the Foo Fighters and NHC, Laura put on a stunning rendition of “Wagon Wheel”. Perry Farrell and his wife Etty Lau Farrell did a beautiful job on “Satellite of Love”. Perry’s voice was smooth as glass and Etty’s background vocals complimented him well.
Donovan Leitch is who they call when they need weird. “My telephone Conversation” is a weird song. Donovan was perfect for this song and he knew it. Corey Taylor was back for “I’m So Free”. Billy Idol was supposed to take this one but, due to illness (not Covid), he bowed out and Corey stepped in to learn the song last minute. Franky Perez channeled his inner crooner for “Goodnight Ladies”. Franky seriously has one of the best voices in the business and with this performance, he knocked it out of the park. This concluded the Transformer album but, they were not quite done. Billy Morrison took the daunting task of following Franky to do his “junkie vocal” rendition of “Sweet Jane”. Again, he nailed it.
Paul Trudeau took care of all the keyboards for this album and Franky Perez brought the horn section from his Las Vegas band to handle that end.
During the intermission, Mark McGrath was back to auction off four works of art by Billy Morrison, Duel Diagnosis (Dave Navarro and PADHiA), Risk and Shepard Fairey. After the auction Dr Drew Pinsky hosted a talk about mental health and how to reach out if you are in need.
The second set was The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks. Now, from what Billy Morrison said, each place this album was pressed had the songs in a different order. This was the “Lithuania” version. I am pretty sure he was joking. While Chris Chaney played bass on all of the Lou Reed songs, Piggy D took care of all the bass lines for this set.
The curtain came up to the clapping/stomping intro to “Holidays in the Sun” with Corey Taylor taking lead vocals on “Holidays” and the next track “Bodies”. “No Feelings” brought back Mark McGrath and an added guitar from Dave Kushner. “Liar” brought Jason Butler to the stage in an explosive performance that had everyone running to keep up. Billy Morrison took on “Problems” and his English accent added just the right flare at the end when the verses are more spoken than sang.
“Seventeen” was fronted by Franky Perez who went from crooner in the last set to aggressive, angst filled vocals on this one. Jason Butler was back for round two on “Submission” and blew everyone away once again. “Anarchy in the UK” brought back Perry and Etty Farrell. The dichotomy between the last set and this one show really how diverse Perry’s vocals can be. Mark McGrath was back for his last performance of the night on “New York”. “God Save the Queen” brought out the last mystery guest, Dexter Holland. Dexter blasted through an amazing version of the song that left everyone wanting more. The last song was “EMI” and they brought all the performers back for an all-star jam through the song. Before we knew it, the night was over and we were left with the feeling that we witnessed something that will go down in history.
2). Andy’s Chest
3). Perfect Day
4). Hanging Around
5). Walk on the Wild Side
6). Make Up
7). Wagon Wheel
8). Satellite of Love
9). My Telephone Conversation
10). I’m so Free
11). Goodnight Ladies
12). Sweet Jane
1). Holidays in the Sun
3). No Feelings
8). Anarchy in the UK
9). New York
10). God Save the Queen
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Photographer of about 10 years, I have been shooting concerts for about 8 of those years. I started to get serious about concert photography about 6 or 7 years ago and now try to shoot as many as I can. I shoot mostly rock but, have done some country and big band stuff. I love music and since I am nowhere close to being a musician, this is a way I can be a small part of what, in the words of Henry Rollins, “gets me through the highs, the lows and everything in between”.