A Woodstock Legend in Bucharest: Joe Cocker Concert Impressions

by Mira

Joe Cocker gave a concert in Bucharest as part of his Fire It Up Summer Tour. This article includes concert setlist, photos, HD videos, some comments, and a short Joe Cocker bio.

I’ve been a fan of Joe Cocker ever since my teenage days. Who hasn’t? The man was a star in 1969 at Woodstock and has since provided the background to many dances and love affairs for so many of us.

Here are some of my impressions from his concert in București on August 4, 2013, together with a biography, photos, and a few HD videos ("Up Where we Belong" -- Joe Cocker introducing the Fire It Up Summer Tour band members -- "You Can Leave Your Hat On" -- "Cry Me a River"). Enjoy!

The Wonderful Joe Cocker

Sala Palatului, București, 4 August 2013
It was a privilege to see him
It was a privilege to see him
© Mira at Wizzley 2013

Joe Cocker in Concert in Bucharest, Romania

Fire It Up Summer Tour

Before the Concert

I’m looking forward to seeing Joe Cocker in concert again. I’m reading he was in Romania five times so far, four times in Bucharest and once at the Golden stag Festival in Brasov. I only saw him in 1995. He was the main act in a concert that also included Eros Ramazzotti and Rod Stewart. It was a hot August day on the National Stadium, and I had arrived there with friends sometime around noon, to make sure we got spots near the stage. The concert was a big deal at the time, when we were only beginning to receive the world’s greatest rock and pop performers in Romania after decades of Communism.

This time his concert is at Sala Palatului. Not a stadium (he still fills them though: see here the list of concerts on his Fire It Up Summer Tour), not even Romexpo, where the concert was originally scheduled, but still a large venue (4,060 seats; and, after all, all size and type of venues are great for an artist like him and his audience). I look forward to his performance and that of his backing vocals – both were fabulous in 1995.

After the Concert

Ah, where to begin! My first reaction was literally "These people don't get old!" Meaning some of the great musicians out there. He didn't age a bit between 1995, when I first saw him, and this time. Sure, his face changed. But his voice and stage presence remained as powerful as before. Yes, for those of you out there wondering, he still plays air guitar a lot. Keyboard, too.

He was in great shape. After he sang "You Are So Beautiful," with no backing vocals, the crowd got wild. The girls were wonderful, too. There were three female backup singers, one of which also played guitar. We heard two of them in short solos on "Up Where We Belong" (one of the girls; she sounded very different from Jennifer Warnes -- that's the great thing about duets recreated in various concerts) and "Cry Me a River" (the other girl, who throughout the concert did a couple of Tina Turner moves).

The band was great, except for the drums in one section of "With a Little Help from My Friends." They just weren't right: the wrong kind of loud dull (as opposed to reverberating) sound.

Joe Cocker opened with "I Come in Peace," a song from his latest album. The concert was one hit after another. Even the new songs from the Fire It Up album, interspersed between old-time favorites, seemed like old hits if you judged by the warmed-up crowd's reaction. People also appreciated the Fire It Up songs for what they were on their own, especially "You Don't Need a Million Dollars."

The surprise song was, for me, "Come Together" -- the Beatles song ("here come ol' flattop, he come groovin' up slowly . . ."). He did a really good job, yet again, with a fabulous Beatles song. (I had never heard Joe Cocker sing this one -- although, from what I see now, he has been performing it quite a lot.)

The whole concert lasted 1:45h, including the 10' encore ("Summer in the City" and "Cry Me a River").

Joe Cocker, "[Love Lifts Us] Up Where We Belong"

Fire It Up concert in Bucharest, 4 August 2013 (HD video)

Joe Cocker's Band Members

Joe Cocker introduces his band. Fire It Up concert, București, Romania, 4 August 2013

Joe Cocker, "You Can Leave Your Hat On"

Fire It Up concert in București, Romania, 4 August 2013 (HD video)

Joe Cocker, "Cry Me a River"

Fire It Up concert in Bucharest, 4 August 2013, last song of the evening (HD video)

Joe Cocker Concert Setlist

Sala Palatului, Bucharest, 4 August 2013

"I Come in Peace" (Fire It Up)

"Feelin' Alright"

"The Letter"

"When the Night Comes"

"You Love Me Back" (Fire It Up)

"I'll Be Your Doctor" (Fire It Up)

"Up Where We Belong"

"Come Together"

"Eye on the Prize" (Fire It Up)

"You Don't Need a Million Dollars" (Fire It Up)

"You Are So Beautiful"

"Fire It Up" (Fire It Up)

"N'oubliez Jamais"

"You Can Leave Your Hat"

"Unchain My Heart"

"With a Little Help from My Friends"

Encore:

"Summer in the City"

"Cry Me a River"

Photos from Joe Cocker's Concert in Bucharest, Romania

August 4, 2013
Joe Cocker, "I Come in Peace"
Joe Cocker, "I Come in Peace"
© Mira at Wizzley 2013
Joe Cocker, "When the Night Comes"
Joe Cocker, "When the Night Comes"
© Mira at Wizzley 2013
Joe Cocker, "I'll Be Your Doctor"
Joe Cocker, "I'll Be Your Doctor"
© Mira at Wizzley 2013
Joe Cocker, "I'll Be Your Doctor"
Joe Cocker, "I'll Be Your Doctor"
© Mira at Wizzley 2013

Fire It Up Concerts to Come

Joe Cocker will be next at the Jazz Festival in Marciac, France (August 7), then at Fredriksten Festning in Halden, Norway (August 9), Smögenfestivalen in Smögen (August 10), Sweden, Stadtpark in Hamburg (August 11), and so on -- a pretty tight tour. You can see all the dates here, on the official Joe Cocker Web site.

Short Joe Cocker Biography

Born John Robert Cocker on May 20, 1944 in Sheffield, England, Joe Cocker started performing at 15 (first drums and harmonica and then, starting with 1961, lead vocals) with the Cavaliers – later known as Vance Arnold [Joe Cocker] and the Avengers – and, later, with the Grease Band, while he was working as a gas plumber for the East Midlands Gas Board.

Joe Cocker, With a Little Help from My Friends

Probably My Favorite Joe Cocker Album

In 1969 he was already a star, touring the US, making an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and a memorable performance at Woodstock Festival – remember that raw rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends”? This cover of a song by Lennon and McCartney was Joe Cocker’s first hit. It gave the name to his first album, released that same year. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin played guitar for some of the tracks, including this one.

This 1969 album has many wonderful tracks, including “Feelin' Alright,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and “I Shall Be Released” (Bob Dylan). Reviewing the album in Rolling Stone, critic John Mendelsohn noted that “Cocker has assimilated (Ray) Charles’ influence . . .” You see that, for instance, in his cover of Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” or “I Shall Be Released,” for instance.

Another studio record followed in 1969, and then in 1971 he released the live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which he followed with 60 concerts in 60 days, according to one source, or concerts in 39 cities in less than two months, according to another (many musicians do that – can’t fathom how). And then came the abuse of drugs and alcohol, which lasted a decade. He still put out new records and gave concerts and performances in small clubs, but didn’t have very many hits. There was, however, “You Are So Beautiful” (1975), a wonderful rendition of “Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1978), and a few others.

Then he made a comeback with Sheffield Steel in 1982 (the name very aptly chosen, it seems), an album applauded by critics. One of the great tracks on Sheffield Steel is the well-known “Many Rivers to Cross.” The album didn’t make great sales, however, but Cocker soon followed with a duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong” from the soundtrack to An Officer and a Gentleman. This duet did make it to the top of the charts.

Two more studio albums followed, as well as “You Can Leave Your Hat On” on the soundtrack of 9 1/2 Weeks in 1986, and then came Unchain My Heart in 1987. The title song, a version of Ray Charles’ song, was released as a single as well. He ended the decade with One Night of Sin, which includes the hit “When the Night Comes.”

Then he recorded Joe Cocker Live in 1990, followed by Night Calls in 1991. Besides the successful title song, Night Calls included a remake of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” a song I’m only now listening to, as well as Free’s “Little Bit of Love.” The latter sounds much like the original version, and in this case that’s a great choice, I think.

The following years of the decade he released eleven more albums (studio, live, and compilations), including a Best Of in 1993 and Greatest Hits in 1998. The 1994 Have a Little Faith album included "Summer in the City," originally recorded by The Lovin' Spoonful in 1966 (you have to listen to their version! Both versions are great). In 1997, Joe Cocker released the album Across from Midnight, which included the piece “N’oubliez Jamais,” another popular song of his. Then he slowed down a little, recording only four more studio albums (in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2010) before the Fire It Up album of 2012. I don’t know what to say about this album, by the way. Joe Cocker is good, but I would have preferred different arrangements. Still, the songs on the album cover a large range and fit Joe Cocker’s style. I think my favorite piece is “I Come in Peace.”

Joe Cocker: Ultimate Collection CD (2004)
Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music (Two-Disc 40th Anniversary Director's Cut)

In 2009 he released Live at Woodstock – but you have to see Michael Wadleigh’s film Woodstock – 3 Days of Peace & Music (The Director’s Cut, 1970) [on the right] to really get a sense of Joe Cocker’s performance, the reaction of the crowd, and the whole Woodstock affair without which, I think, you can’t understand Joe Cocker’s spirit, even though he says about performances from those days, “When I look at the old footage, I can’t quite deal with it.”

Joe Cocker lives in the US since 1978. He’s now a resident of Crawford, a small town in Colorado. He grows tomatoes on Mad Dog Ranch with his wife Pam, and does a few other fun things as well.

Thank you, Joe Cocker!

It was a privilege to see you, Joe Cocker! We look forward to seeing you next time :)

Updated: 10/10/2014, Mira
 
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Mira on 05/12/2016

Thank you, Derdriu!

DerdriuMarriner on 05/12/2016

Mira, Very nice learning experience for me and presentation by you. It's educationally entertaining for me to listen to (!) and read your article since I'm unfamiliar with Joe Cocker's vast musical output.

Mira on 08/22/2013

Thank you, Ivan, for your impressions of the concert! I agree, some concert organizers in Bucharest leave a lot to be desired. They ruined 45 minutes of the Leonard Cohen concert, too, by completely mislabeling rows and seats. You never know what to expect in Romania. I find it annoying half the time and part of the fun the other half ;-)

Glad you enjoyed the concert nevertheless. I have to say that I wondered about the people up back. I can't imagine why they didn't use lateral screens, for everyone to see Joe Cocker, the girls, and the band. Thank you for giving the names of the girls. The blonde girl has an amazing voice, too. I think you can hear her solo in one of the videos I posted here.

Ivan on 08/22/2013

It was an awesome concert. This was my first time at a JC concert. But something had to be in romanian style, and that was the organisation of the crowd. Its a shame that only 4000 people showd up, reason why it was moved from Romexpo to Sala Palatului. Seems like not many JC fans in Romania. I saw arround me, before the concert, people fighting for their seats, several people received the same seat with the venue change. Again a sign that nothing works as it should in this god forsaken country. I was really surprised that the stage equipment did not fail. It actually behaved good, good sound, lights.
The band was awesome. I had my seat on the far left stage side, 7th row. The girl on bass, Oneida James, was amazing, hot and very professional, loved the way she played. Nichelle Tillman, the black backing girl, was also amazing, voice, moves, everything. The blond girl was, in my opinion, kinda useless.
JCs performance was amazing, although some very small glitches in his voice here and there but who cares, when such a name is on stage.

Mira on 08/10/2013

:) Yes. And the more I listen to his Fire It Up album, the more I like it. He certainly imprinted it on our minds at Sala Palatului. I love these concerts which promote albums!

Natural_Skin_Care on 08/10/2013

Seems like it was a great concert!

Mira on 08/06/2013

Thank you, Elias! :) Now I wish I had gone right next to the stage towards the end, but I was stuck at the end of a row! Next time I'll try to get a seat on the edge of a row :-)

EliasZanetti on 08/06/2013

Great post and presentation of the concert, Mira! Both the pics and the videos are wonderful.

Mira on 08/06/2013

:) Glad to hear you love Joe Cocker, Kathleen! I never saw him in interviews back in the day when I discovered him, but yesterday I saw one on YouTube and quite enjoyed it. He does come across as a nice and fun man. Really wonderful! And what a singer, huh?:)

KathleenDuffy on 08/06/2013

I really love Joe Cocker - grew up with him (not literally, ha!) I think I am a month older than him. Always comes across as a very modest guy - his voice is incredible. I hope he tours the UK soon.


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