Off to See Emmylou
Posted on April 7, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 139 Comments
(Warning: the video above starts abruptly with crowd noise, but is otherwise worth watching and listening to)
Emmylou Harris is touring to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Wrecking Ball, which is not only my favorite album of hers but may in fact be my favorite album, period, end of sentence, so I’m traveling today to catch her show. Bonus for me: Daniel Lanois is both performing with and opening for Harris, so I will also after about 25 years finally catch him live. Very excited for that.
But that means I’m not going to be here, because it will require travel, and then I will be spending time with the friend. In short: I’ll be out in the real world. Try to have fun on the Internets without me. I’ll be back tomorrow.
In the meantime, a question related to my activity today: In the comments, tell me of a particularly memorable concert that you’ve been to — not necessarily the best or worst, although either is fine, but one that stick in your memory for whatever reason. Because concerts can be memorable, can’t they.
The first time we saw They Might be Giants, because my younger son fell asleep in my husband’s arms halfway through the first song. My kids can sleep anywhere.
A) Just for the hell of it, my first concert was The Dead Milkmen at the Cabaret Metro (now just The Metro) in Chicago on July 6, 1992. Great concert and memorable for how Rodney Linderman made a crack during the show about TMBG being on Leno the night before and performing “Statue Got Me High” and how that must have freaked out Tipper Gore.
B) Then there’s seeing Veruca Salt some years later on what turned out to be there last Chicago stop, and the opening band was this odd pale guy on guitar and a woman with some monotonously effective drum beats. Yeah, when you have no idea who they are the White Stripes can be a bit of a “What the hell is this?”
David Bowie’s Thin White Duke Tour (1976). Instead of using an opening act, he showed Bunuel & Dali’s Surrealist film Un Chien Andalou. Nothing like hearing 10,000 people go Agh as a razor cuts across a woman’s eyeball!
Bob Dylan, Madison, WI, summer of 1989. The concert was held in a hockey arena. A major thunderstorm hit during the show and knocked out power. A confused Dylan could be seen attempting to play a suddenly mute electric guitar. The drummer was the only musician who could be heard by the entire audience. Assorted hand-held percussion was handed out to other musicians. By the end, I got to hear Bob Dylan play cowbell.
Skipping big festival and multi-act things like Lilith Fair, The Concert for New York City and the Virgin Music Festival, I’m going to have to go with Frank Zappa at SUNY Stony Brook in 1980. Tenth row, dead center. Amazing performance.
Two nights ago I got to see VNV Nation for the third time in a tiny jam packed venue in San Francisco named Slim’s. There were a few moments where I raised my hands and face to the sky and just absorbed the music, feeling it pulse in my chest cavity. I imagine that it’s the kind of transcendent experience some people get from church. When they played Nova at the beginning of the second encore, I just about lost it.
As this reviewer (http://www.salon.com/2009/04/17/cohen_5/) said, if you saw Leonard Cohen’s 2009 tour, then you knew that the world is a bigger, deeper, older, more bitter and radiant place.
He wasn’t exaggerating – it was that good.
Apparently his 1970 tour was interesting in a different way: http://www.salon.com/2014/04/06/leonard_cohens_worst_tour_ever_i_want_to_play_mental_asylums/
Several years ago I was at a Crooked Still concert when, part-way through the second set, somebody in the audience had some kind of medical event. We all sat in our chairs kind of uncomfortably until the EMTs came, put the guy on a gurney and wheeled him out (fortunately it was something minor and he was fine afterwards). The band came back on stage and, to kind of ease us back into things, performed a slower number, Lone Pilgrim, before proceeding to rip it up for the rest of the set & the encore. (I think that’s the only time I ever saw them do Lone Pilgrim in concert.)
Another time, Joy Kills Sorrow was opening for Crooked Still. The concert was on Halloween so both bands came out in full costumes; Crooked Still were all Wizard of Oz characters. (And Aoife O’Donovan, Crooked Still’s vocalist, makes an awfully attractive Wicked Witch of the West …)
In the mid-90s I saw Warren Zevon play at small club outside of Chapel Hill NC. It was standing-room only, and I stood on a small bench just to the left of stage for the whole show. He came with only a minimal backup band, and it was amazing.
I fell in love with Bauhaus in 1989. Considering the band broke up in 1983, I never expected to see them live, though I did see Peter Murphy solo. My husband has been a huge Nine Inch Nails fan since before we met. The 2006 Nine Inch Nails/Bauhaus tour was a dream come true! Also amazing, the first Lollapalooza tour and David Bowie’s Changes tour
I saw TMBG at the Paradise Rock Club in 1988. My friend and I were in front of the stage, and almost got knocked over by John Flansburgh when he swung the big marching band drum around for Whistling in the Dark. First time I ever heard Particle Man, and had to wait until Flood was released to hear it again. GREAT show.
Also at the Paradise, I saw John Wesley Harding and he had two opening bands: Mare Winningham and Barenaked Ladies – another great show, but in retrospect a damned weird line-up. That was… 92 I think.
Last year, I took my son Jack (aged 10) to hist first concert – TMBG again, with Jonathan Coulton opening up (my son was more interested in JoCo) in Concord, NH. Jack ran out of steam, so we left before the encore, but he still wears his Skullcrusher Mountain T-shirt with pride.
The Eagles Hotel California tour in 1976. The album was not being released until the following week. Those songs were great the first time you heard them. Joe Walsh had just joined the Eagles. Rocky Mountain Way still stands out as one of my favorites, a lot of years and concerts later.
Must be 30 years ago now when I saw the Go-Gos at the Hollywood Bowl with my brother. He dyed his hair pink, but he used food coloring. Naturally it ran down his neck and thus dyed his shirt.
Bonnie Rait opened for Jerry Garcia in the late 80’s, when Bonnie was starting her comeback. They played together on Jerry’s set – just playing songs together they had never played together before. Lovely spring day in the outdoor Berkeley amphitheater.
Saw the Emmylou/Rodney Crowell/Richard Thompson tour last year – awesome show!
I caught a Frank Black solo show in ’07 or ’08- no Catholics, just Charles and an acoustic guitar. I’d seen some good Pixies shows, but that night he tapped into some raw-gut emotion I didn’t even know was there.
Favorite show: Talking Heads 1982 in Austin. It was the tour before the “Stop Making Sense,” and they moved it outside to Fiesta Gardens because the auditorium’s AC broke, but it was still the most amazing performance I have ever scene.
Also memorable: ELP (laugh all you want) in the mid-70s, because Carl Palmer fell into the trap in the floor, which was inexplicably open. From our angle we could see roadies walking Palmer around backstage (naturally we applauded him), and he did an encore to show the audience that he was all right.
The first concert I can remember seeing live was the Boston Pops on the Esplanade on July 4th, 1976. Although we got there *relatively* early (mid-AM), we couldn’t get a spot anywhere in front of the stage (an estimated 1 million people where there); instead we ended up back near the Boathouse. (In retrospect, I’m AMAZED my Dad found somewhere to park…) It was a people watchers paradise which meant I — as a 10 yo — spent most of the day (when not listening to the Red Sox play a double-header on my Dad’s transistor radio) bored out of my skull and looking for opportunities to kill my younger brothers. And just as twilight really moved in, the concert — complete with carillon and canon and fireworks — began. No other concert has ever stood a chance of making the same impression.
I’m not sure that it will go down as one of my most memorable, but I did see Emmylou play much of “Wrecking Ball” at the Tallstacks Festival in Cincinnati several years back, and it was a great show.
Not a concert per se, but one of my grandmothers took me to see a performance of M Butterfly when I was a teen and during a certain aria, although I understood not a word, the soprano made my bones vibrate and I burst in spontaneous tears. It was amazing.
For most memorable, there are several candidates. In 1974, I saw Bruce Springsteen and the (original) E-Street band play in front of 350-400 people at the University of Kentucky Student Center Ballroom, and nearly getting kicked out of the dressing room for asking a particularly inane question during a post-show interview). In fact, tomorrow I will be seeing Springsteen for way will probably be the 27th or 28th time.
Then, in 1976, being totally blown away by Patti Smith on the “Horses” tour in Milwaukee (probably the longest trip I had made specifically for a concert) and, as a topper, seeing Muddy Waters’ last set at a small club later that same night.
It was around 1988 or ’89, and Emmylou and the Hot Band were coming to St. Paul to perform at the very excellent Ordway Theater there. In transit (perhaps in their truck) or somewhere along the line, the headstock on Emmylou’s favorite J-200 Gibson guitar, given to her by Graham Parsons had a big fat crack in it where it joined the neck (a not uncommon break, usually caused by leaning the guitar against a wall where gravity can have its way with it…). Emmylou’s people came to me (a luthier at the best shop in the area at the time) to do the repair, which I did, and was able to completely obscure any sign of the crack.
For my efforts, in addition to some dough, I received two nights of best in the house seats, and a pass backstage so I could also watch the concert from the wings, which I did one night, sitting by the stage/road manager with a beer.
The shows, of course, were great. I also got a very short ‘thank-you’ audience with Herself, out back by her bus, as she was surrounded by her entourage.
Memorable, indeed. ‘o)
Lanois and Emmylou together; a great treat.
Moody Blues, San Antonio, March 31, 1970. My first date and first concert. I ordered the tickets via mail, @ $5 each and thought that was expensive.
Great concert. They actually had a Mellotron with them.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mellotron
So many amazing musicians and concerts…. One of my favorite memories though, was the early June 1997 Santana concert at Park City Utah. It was set on Wolf Mountain so we were out on a grassy ski hill, watching the moon rise over the rocks and trees while surrounded by happy and friendly people. The amazing life affirming music combined with so much natural beauty was almost spiritual.
[Deleted for irrelevance and being off the topic – JS]
My first concert (not counting theatrical performances*) was U2’s Joshua Tree tour, in ’87. I was 15. I’d wanted to go to the Unforgettable Fire show in ’84, but I was only 12 then, so my parents said no. For Joshua Tree, my parents bought a ticket for me and my best friend at the time. My father dropped us off, then picked us up when it was over. Great show!
I think the most recent concert I attended live was either when Queensryche (with Geoff Tate) did the Operation: Mindcrime I & II tour, or when Straight No Chaser came into town a few years ago for a Christmas show.
Mini-rant: I can’t attend as many rock concerts as I’d like to anymore. I’m epileptic, and so many rock shows these days insist on using rapidly strobing pictures/lasers, it’s dangerous for me to attend because it might provoke a seizure. A few years ago, I took my father to see the Moody Blues, as a birthday present to him. I couldn’t actually watch most of the show, I had to keep my eyes trained to either side (or above/below) of the stage because of the bright colors and flashing lights.
*My very first time seeing a theatrical performance was when I was a little girl living in Chicago. My maternal grandmother was visiting from California, and she’d gotten tickets for herself, my mother and I to attend the world premiere showing of Annie (1976) at the Arie Crown Theatre. I was four years old, and I was awestruck. I had the great good fortune to see several more theatrical productions with the original (or at least most well-known) stars (Rex Harrison/My Fair Lady, Yul Brynner/The King and I, Rickard Burton/Camelot) at the Arie Crown over the years.
Hey, Joel Zakem, I was at that Springsteen concert at UK in 1974, too! The best $2 I ever spent on rock and roll!
James Taylor at Red Rocks near Denver. A full moon, a beautiful night, great company, and perfect acoustics. 1978.
first concert: 1994, Nine Inch Nails with special guests Marilyn Manson and The Jim Rose Circus at the Lawrence Joel War Memorial Coliseum. Blew my mind.
most memorable concert: 2006, The Who at the Hollywood Bowl with my fiancee and parents. For a moment, they were thirty years younger.
latest concert: 2014, The War on Drugs with special guests White Laces at The Troubadour. WL stayed with my wife and me during their LA sojourn. Yes, I’m bragging and name-dropping. WL are a bunch of fun, cool guys and were the sweetest guests.
I saw The Knack in 1979 in a basketball arena at Stanford University. As soon as they hit the first chord everyone jumped to their feet and no one sat down for the rest of the show. It was the most energetic show I’ve ever seen.
In 1989 I saw They Might Be Giants at The Keystone in Berkeley. I was a DJ at college radio station KUSF and already knew I loved them. The show absolutely confirmed it.
dancingotther72: I also saw the Peter Murphy/NIN tour here in Toronto. I did see Bauhaus before they broke up (in 82 I think) and more recently on a reunion tour.
Other memorable shows: Rush in about 75 and then their 30th anniversary tour, taking my daughter to the Lilith Fair for her first concert experience, seeing Dead Can Dance before they broke up (they were absolutely brilliant, did multiple encores and finally came out to ask us to please go home), Sisters of Mercy,The Cult while they were still Death Cult, Civil Wars/Adele (again with my daughter). I have MS now so my live shows are limited to ones with accessible seating.
Saw AC/DC, I believe it was 1987. Opening band was unmemorable. First thing you hear is Angus Young playing his guitar. Then a rocket erupts out of the stage. Out popped Angus playing his guitar. It was an amazing show, Angus ran around like he had limitless energy. A giant bell appeared for Hell’s Bells too. First rate theater!
Several contenders: (1) Bonnie Raitt, at Michigan State, spring of 1976, I think – she did an amazing song named (I think) “Blender Blues”, which I have been seeking ever since; (2) Crosby & Nash, the pavilion at Blossom Music Center – 2 of my younger sisters got me to drive them by paying for my ticket, we had third row seats, and Graham Nash pointed at me when I quasi-yelled a song title to the sibs after the first several notes, amazed that I recognized a not-on-radio-release tune (that alone was worth several years of “cool big sister status”); and (3) Mel Tormé and George Shearing in the Venetian Room in San Francisco, with my dad and eventually-to-be spouse.
When I was in college I got to see Ani diFranco open for Bob Dylan. It was a fantastic show, and I expected to see a ton of overlap among their fans… but no, between sets maybe a quarter of the audience cycled out. At the time I thought it was hilarious (I might have been breathing in some interesting things) but now I think it’s sad. Damn good show, though. I remember saying as we left, “I hope I’m that cool when I’m that old”. I still hope that, come to think of it.
Seeing Social Distortion play live in San Antonio, in 2006, while I was on pass from my Combat Medic training, was my favorite show.
The most memorable was Weird Al Yancovic at the Taste of Cleveland event in 2004 or 2005.
I have 2 stories:
198…2? Maybe ’83. Hollywood Bowl. The Go-Go’s. My dad was head carpenter at the Bowl at the time, so he got some tickets for my mom, my little sister, and a couple others. But not quite enough for all of us. We were one ticket short. No problem, my dad says. He takes me over to one of the spotlight towers, sends me up the ladder into the booth, pulls up a stool for me, and says to the spotlight operator, “He’s going to watch the show from here, if that’s alright.” Honestly, I think I was more fascinated by the spotlight, which didn’t have an electric lamp but rather a magnesium rod that was ignited and allowed to burn down during the show, than the Go-Go’s. Hey, I was like 10.
A decade later. LA Colosseum. Motorhead*, Metallica, and Guns’n’Roses. My best friend really wants to see Metallica. I’m kind of “meh” on them, having never heard an entire album, but think GnR will be fun. Boy, was I wrong. Halfway through Metallica’s set, I’m there, waving devil-horns ( \m/ ), and yelling “SEEK AND DESTROY!” along with the rest of the crowd. My best friend’s like, “Dude, look at you!” and I’m like, “Shut up, this is AWESOME!” Later, GnR comes on about a half hour late (as Axl Rose is wont to do), and they. Are. Booooooooooring. The only interesting part of their set was when the band left the stage, except for Slash, who just jammed for like 15 minutes.
*Most of that tour, the opening act was Faith No More. But for some reason they were replaced by Motorhead for the Colosseum shows. We skipped Motorhead, but oh man would I have loved to see Faith No More.
Pet Shop Boys. My favorite band from my teen years, the first album I ever bought with my own money, and I finally caught them about 8 years ago on the Fundamental tour, and it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It was just Chris, Neil, and three backup dancers, no opening act, at the Paramount in Denver and they brought down the house. My 16 year old self thanked me.
Let’s go way back… I saw The Beatles , 1965 in Houston, first show. Paid $4.50 for floor seats. Awful…Girls screamed for the whole show. Bummed me out so bad, I didn’t go to another concert for 4 years. Second concert, Steppenwolf, woah, things had changed, concert hall was full of a smoky haze that smelled like a grass fire, dumbass country boy didn’t know about the hand rolled cigarettes everybody was smoking.
Billy Joel @ Glasgow’s SECC in 2006. Pretty sure musicians consider it a terrible venue acoustics-wise, but I was completely blown away in any event. It was a birthday treat for my mum and I wasn’t expecting much, being 26 at the time and not exactly a fan, but perhaps due to my low expectations it turned out to be the best gig I’ve ever been to.
It started with Peter Kay, then arguably the UK’s most famous and popular stand up comedian, coming out and miming his charity single from the year before (Tony Christie’s Amarillo) because it turned out Kay was a HUGE fan of Billy’s and was going to all his UK tour dates, so the crowd were all up on their feet singing even before the gig got started! Then later Billy was joking about the write-up his first Glasgow gig a few nights before had got in the local paper – they basically said he was an old man sat at his piano all night being old and he decided to prove them wrong by dynamically jumping on top of his piano and singing a few songs from there. Basically he was a great entertainer and showman all night and put plenty of other artists to shame.
Must give an honourable mention to Dennis Locorriere too – he also gives great gig.
Strangest gig was Tom Jones. He was good but the weird thing was his choice of support act. I felt really, REALLY sorry for The Cosmic Rough Riders because at least 90% of the audience stayed out of the auditorium until they finished. Their music really isn’t for the average Tom Jones fan… I guess they were chosen because they’re local but it was really cringy when Tom came out and was bigging them up and thanking them and so on. The blue rinse brigade were not impressed, although I dare say they probably deny the existence of Tom’s Sex Bomb era too!
(And, OH GOD, I’ve just realised that at least half the gigs I’ve ever been to I’ve been accompanying my mum. I really need to do something about that.)
“Yonder lie the lights of Nagasaki”
said the Santa Fe Opera
performing Madama Butterfly
and pointing in the direction
of Los Alamos, birthplace of The Bomb.
Specifically (as context)
at one particular evening outdoor performance by the Santa Fe Opera of Madama Butterfly [which takes place shortly after the turn of the century, or roughly halfway between the time Commodore Perry began to force Japan out of isolation and the day when Nagasaki became linked with Hiroshima in the world’s consciousness] there was an uneasy reaction in the uadience when one singer declared (in ACT I. GARDEN OF A HOUSE IN NAGASAKI, wherein Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton of the U.S. Navy, amused by certain Japanese customs and determined to enjoy the pleasures of the country where he finds himself stationed, has arranged through Goro, a marriage broker, to wed a beautiful young Japanese girl named Cio-Cio-San, who has the nickname Madama Butterfly. Pinkerton intends to marry in Japanese fashion for 999 years, but with a monthly escape clause]
As I was saying, the actor was saying: “Yonder lie the lights of Nagasaki” — and pointed directly at the visible lights of Los Alamos, off towards Albuquerque.
Pausing after the politically incorrect punchline, JVP waves his hands towards wikipedia, says “you had to have been there”, and mumbles: “The Santa Fe Opera is an American opera company, located 7 miles north of Santa Fe, headquartered on a former guest ranch of 199 [JVP: a prime] acres. John Crosby, a New York-based conductor, founded SFO in 1956, originally as the Opera Association of New Mexico. His goal was to give American singers the opportunity to learn and perform new roles while having ample time for rehearsal and preparation. Its first season began on 3 July 1957.”
Most memorable. That would be the show at the rodeo when lightning hit the stage. Well not precisely memorable as I can’t remember who was playing… In fact they only played for about 5 minutes when all heck broke loose.
I too saw U2 on the Joshua Tree tour–in Dublin, on a post-high school trip to Ireland. Opening acts: the Pogues, Christy Moore and the Pretenders. Quite a show…Emmylou Harris is coming to town on her current tour, but alas, I’ll have to miss it.
Tom Rush at the Birchmere Saturday night. For contrast, James Naughton on PBS Friday. They both have amazing wide, effortless vocal ranges.
Many years ago, Frank Zappa and Jerry Garcia in a small theatre in Oakland. Just the two of them, guitars and banjos, and an audience of about 50. Both masters of their craft.
Front of the stage for two shows of GNR’s residency at the Hard Rock in Vegas two years ago.
My 22 year old self would have been exhausted by what I put my 44 year old body through. No sex or drugs, just rock and roll. And no sleep for 48 hours.
The Pogues at the Warfield in San Francisco.
The Pogues had kicked Shane McGowan out of the band at this point, but filling in for a few concerst was … Joe Strummer of the Clash! The band was on fire and roared through some Clash songs too. I was in the balcony next to the sound board. At one point, everyone was up and dancing/thrashing around and the balcony was shaking up and down. I looked at the sound guy in shock and he looked at me, grinned a huge grin, and screamed “yeaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!”. Fantastic concert.
– Thomas Dolby in a little club in Sacramento – I waited to see him for 25 years and it was all i’d waited for (I have the set list somewhere, a gift from a sound guy).
– Devo in a concert in a shopping mall parking lot about 1-2 years ago. Non-stop energy, and all the obscure nerdy songs I loved.
– Cheap Trick when they replayed the entire Budokan concert album (30th anniversary)
– Oingo Boingo at the Warfield. Insane atmosphere.
– Joan Armatrading at the Greek, for reasons of personal significance.
– Bruce, the first time I saw him. Great show.
Haven’t been to too many concerts recently – need to go to more!
Many a long year ago, Eddie Arnold at Carnegie Carnegie
Make that Carnegie Hall
Springsteen, 2005 on his solo tour supporting Devils and Dust. Played at the Pantages here in Los Angeles and I went with my dad. Emotional concert hearing his songs stripped down bare, particularly the haunting version of “The Promised Land” that he closed with. Dad and I still get goosebumps talking about it.
Seen a few concerts in my time but not that many. I really liked one back in ’88 at the Paramount (Seattle). They had Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden and Jane’s Addiction. It was really good in that good old grungy Seattle scene way. The Paramount was in danger of being condemned then so it was an apt setting. While regal looking it was in disrepair and worn.
Probably the best concert I’ve been to was just recently. It was Macklemore of all things. My wife and I took our 14 year old son and a friend of his, Pablo. We had terrible seats but it didn’t matter. A lot of positive energy in the house that night. One scene etched in my memory was when everyone did what we used to do with bic lighters, creating that starlight effect in an arena. No bic lighters here, only smartphones with flashlight on :) It was awesome. Kids will always be the coolest force of our species.
Rush, November 2012. It’s the first concert I ever took my kids to and they loved it. I did, too. But mostly I loved being there with them.
In 1977 I went to see Rush at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. The tour had been arranged before 2112 hit big and Farewell to Kings came out, so they were mostly doing coliseums. By comparison, the Shreveport Auditorium is quite small, little more than a dance hall. But, they had the sound system and stage show for huge venues crammed into that smaller space, so it was louder than loud. I think I owe some of my hearing loss to that one concert.
The song Farewell to Kings starts off with a pretty little guitar solo, then hits a big Rush-sized power chord. When they hit that chord, they blew two large magnesium flash-pots on stage. The blazing white flashes were about 10 feet tall. We were very close, you could have reached out and touched the artists. We thought the stage had exploded. You could feel the intense heat on your face. There was a massive panicked surge backwards and when we were finally able to see again, there was a 6 foot gap between the audience and the stage and the band was laughing so hard they could hardly play.
k.d. lang at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, circa 1993. I have never seen so many happy women in one place at the same time.
Like Steve C, above, I saw the Moody Blues on their 1970 tour. While I wasn’t that enamored of the Moodies, the front act, in Cincinnati, was Van Morrison, who I thought was amazing.
Indigo Girls at the Little Five Points Pub in Atlanta, spring of 1988. The place only held about 200 people, and if you didn’t get there about five hours early, you were out of luck. If you did, you saw amazing and heartfelt music up close and very, very personal.
At the other end of the spectrum, Herbert Grönemeyer twice in Munich’s Olympic stadium. He’s not a great singer, he’s not a great dancer, and yet by God he had 60,000 people in the palm of his hand for the entirety of the three-hour show.
Some greats from in between:
The final performance of The Wagon Wheels, the best folk/rock quartet you’ve never heard of, at a place called Eddie’s Attic, one of those famous-to-those-in-the-know oases for singer-songwriters.
U2 in Budapest, on the field of the national stadium with a zillion of your closest friends, and yet only about three rows back from the stage.
Bonnie Raitt with Lyle Lovett. Well, ok, Lyle Lovett pretty much anywhere, but together with Bonnie Raitt, daa-yum. I’ve probably still got the blues from that one.
Oh yeah, the Flaming Lips at a frat house in Tennessee. A deeply religious experience.
George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. Woodstock 99. Bootsy rejoined the band, Hump-D from Digital Underground did a couple songs with them too. FANTASTIC show. Easily the best I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a ton.
The first time I saw ambient musician Robert Rich at a place called The Gatherings in PA. It was in a Church so the acoustics were particularly good. He uses ‘bent’ notes, kind of like in barbershop quartet. He was touring Electric Ladder, and that album is more ‘active’ than usual. I actually applauded when I recognized some songs, which was unusual in that type of concert. It was similar to this video. It’s an old video, and he weirdly looks like Steve Jobs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1fItrtvK5c
Leon Redbone at Bogart’s in Cincinnati around 1978 or so. Just him, his guitar and a tuba player. Amazing and memorable show.
And coincidently, in a close second is Emmylou–front row at Music Hall, Cincinnati. I could hear her from the stage without PA system! Wow.
Pearl Jam in Honolulu in December of 2006. We were in Hilo and it was raining. My husband remembered that they were playing in Honolulu that night, so we bought tickets, hopped an inter-island flight and rented the last minivan on Oahu. We saw the show, slept in the minivan and took the first flight back to Hilo the next morning. One of the very highest of highlights in my life.
Yes, 90124 tour, they opened with a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “Water, Water, Every Hare”.
Worst concert: Bob Dylan/Santana double bill. Dylan opened and, well, what singing voice he had was long gone. If he’d just talked the lyrics it would’ve been pretty good. But he had to try to sing.. Santana was awesome.
US, the “War” tour. They were just getting big. I’d bought 10 tickets in the first row behind the stage, so they were marked “obstructed view”. None of my friends wanted to sit there so I was looking at eating 9 of them. On the way to the show I heard on DC101 that it was a 360 stage. 9 extra front row seats. And it was an awesome show.
U2, not US. Damn autocorrect.
In the late ’70s (can’t remember the main act) but the warm-up band was this unknown group call Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They stoled the show.
Far and away the winner: Times Square NYC in November 2012, when Blue Oyster Cult did their 40th Anniversary show. Both the current line-up and the original lineup played, and Don’t Fear the Reaper included everyone on stage and two guys just banging away on cowbells. It was glorious. Small theater, 4th row, and they did 2 sets. We’ll never see its like again–one of the original band members (Allan Lanier) passed away in 2013.
Runner up: late 70s, Calderone Theater (Long Island), 3rd row seats to see Meat Loaf. Bat Out of Hell had just come out, and Two out of Three Ain’t Bad was getting lots of airplay. It’s a small place, and he has a big voice. A year later, he’d be playing stadiums. He’s really intense live–and I love the songs from that album.
1972, Peter Yarrow at Bowling Green State University. A two-hour concert, with Peter doing all of the best songs he’d written. For the break, he got down off the stage, let his backup guitarist have the stage for 15 minutes, while Peter went up into the crowd and sat and listened to him.
Saw Gordon Lightfoot same venue back in 1971, great concert, too.
One thing I like about Emmylou Harris is watching her play. She flatpicks and fingerpicks simultaneously, something I’ve not learned to do.
Pink Floyd, The Division Bell, my first show ever. Started off with Astronomy Domine, then some stuff from the title album, then did most of The Dark Side of the Moon, some from Meddle, from The Wall, and from Wish You Were Here.
Extraordinary show. Visually stunning, and really great sound in spite of the venue.
Nothing I saw after that comes even close to that first experience.
Most of my strongest concert memories come from when I was in college; I’m sure that’s no coincidence although I’ve been to more shows since then.
U2, fall of ’92 at the Silverdome near Detroit remains my favorite show. It was an all out audio and visual spectacle, and I remember feeling like my brain was being forced to shut down and reboot (in a good way) due to the environment.
Also, a bunch of concerts at the old Jones Beach Ampitheater on Long Island. A small (<10,000) outdoor venue, the whole thing sits on the edge of the Great South Bay. Before a pair of rennovations in the early and mid 90s, the stage was separated from the crowd by a moat. Almost any show would be enhanced by the sea breeze and the sunset. Except Robert Plant, who really stunk up the place. But Don Henley (with Billy Joel guesting on piano for "Desperado") and Billy Joel (with Paul Simon coming out to duet on Bridge Over Troubled Water) were simply outstanding.
I’ve seen the English progressive-art rock band YES play live some five times through the decades, but the most memorable was in Fort Worth on a revolving stage with the classic lineup of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Alan White. Can’t remember which album was featured but as always they opened with Siberian Quatru and ended the encore with Roundabout. Don’t Kill the Whales was the song of the day, I think.
Runner up was Todd Rundgren and Utopia touring the RA albumn with a Sphinx head and metal pyramid on stage at UTA Arlington.
Honorable Mention is Amy Grant at Midland College with Rich Mullens as the opening act.
All three, YES, Todd, and Amy are still with us still performing live.
I went with my daughter, a friend, and the friend’s sister to see Cloud Cult’s “unplugged” concert in Indianapolis a few months back. I’d heard many of the songs in their usual, higher-tech versions, and liked them well enough — but these intimate versions had far more emotional impact. (It was a particularly emotional experience for me because the raw honesty of the lead singer/songwriter reminded me of my deceased brother, a similarly intense musician whose lifelong psychiatric problems prevented him from using his talents.)
A lot of artists were playing Radio City Music Hall for a David Lynch benefit in 2009, but all anyone wanted to talk about was if Paul McCartney would play with Ringo Starr. And after refusing to talk about the possibility all evening, it was down to the end of Paul’s set when he started playing “With A Little Help From My Friends” and Ringo strolled out to thunderous applause (and stayed through the encore).
On a related note, I saw Dave Matthews headline a show in Seattle in 2001 with Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris opening, and both Dave and Emmylou are known for excellent cover’s of Daniel Lanois’ “The Maker”. But it remained unplayed until the last song of Dave’s set when he brought both Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris out, and they did it together. I have a copy of the performance, but it fails to capture the transcendence of that moment. Their voices blended so beautifully I just got lost in the moment and emotion overcame me.
My favourite concert was Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet performing The Juliet Letters at Davies Hall in SF. Tied for second would be Indigo Girls at the Greek and Bette Midler anywhere!
Wonderful thread. Also, interesting to see so many old, OLD people here. ‘o)
My first show was December 1995, a double-bill of Econoline Crush and The Tea Party (nothing to do with recent US politics; these were both leading bands of Canada’s early 90s alt-rock scene). And the opener was a new band called Big Wreck that went on to some commercial success in the late 90s.
On the subject of Daniel Lanois, he’s kind of a hometown hero here in Hamilton, Ontario, since this is where his career as a producer began in the early 80s. The studio he co-founded back then is still in business. The Tea Party even released a cover of his song “The Messenger” as a single: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2XtNJARXCg
Huey Lewis and the News on 10/25/91. Outdoor venue with a roof over the stage and just the first few rows. Grass seating behind the actual seats. It began to rain, very heavy, and then the power went out. The guys sang Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This acapella and then power came back on and they asked the crowd if they should keep going in the rain. The people sitting on the grass and soaked to the skin were just as loud as the rest of the crowd.
No one knew until the next day the power failure was caused by Bill Graham’s helicopter miles away hitting a power transmission line.
@MDSL – same tour.
I saw Pink Floyd at Earls Court in London in Oct 1994. The Oct 12 show was cancelled due to a stage collapse and my seat was in the rebuilt stand a day or two later. They sat us according to the numbers on the backs of the now jumbled-up seats and I lucked out – instead of a really crappy seat as it would have been in its original position I had a seat with great line-of-sight to the stage. Loved it!
I can’t recall the exact year, but it was while my younger kid was still in high school, so at least 12 years ago, I took him with me to see a performance of the Verdi Requiem. Younger kid is an avid choral singer, and I knew he’d love the Verdi as much as I do.
Well, if you’re familiar with the Requiem, you know the bass drum gets quite a workout in the Dies Irae theme, which recurs throughout the piece. And the principal percussionist with the Symphony, a lively and enthusiastic little Italian fellow, is no shrinking violet, so he was whaling away on that drum for all he was worth as the mighty chords rolled forward.
He did such a good job, in fact, that he pounded a hole right through the drumskin.
Younger kid did love the concert, and promptly added the Requiem to his bucket list of works he wants to sing some day. And neither he nor I have ever forgotten the look of horror on that poor fellow’s face, as his drum stick demolished the head of the bass drum.
Ok, that’s pretty tand pedestrian compared to most everyone else. But then when you’re a classical music fan, you have a somewhat different definition of “memorably exciting” than rock fans do.
The US Armed Forces Band Europe in Aalborg, Denmark, July 4, 1994. The city of Aalborg was celebrating US Independence Day. I hung out with Janet Reno during an intermission. And they finished the concert with a fireworks show, launching the flaming projectiles from only 30 feet away, through trees. Every now and then, one would hit a limb and deflect straight into the stands causing the crowd to run. And, as soon as it was done exploding, we returned to our seats.
I refrain for posting anything from my duration as Music Reviewer at the Caltech student Newspaper, nor when I was publishing editor of the 25,000 circulation underground music newspaper “SOUND OPTION.” But I miss those days and nights backstage throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut several shows per day…
Harry Chapin for me. It was near the last show he did and he was magnificent. We stayed around at the end and I got a kiss.
75th Anniversary Concert of The Cleveland Orchestra, at Cleveland Public Hall.
Tickets were offered free through the newspaper.
I had the priviledge of ushering, and when I arrived (early), the line to get in was wrapped around the building and down the street, plus it was snowing lightly.
In my section were: our usual patrons (friendly, approachable people – not at all arrogant like some people might think), bikers in leather and chains, folks dressed “to the nines” (way above a regular concert), a whole row of developmentally challenged children, families who “can’t afford to take our kids to Severance Hall but want them to hear the Orchestra,” and on and on.
I can’t adequately describe the positive and joyful atmosphere. Everyone was welcome, everyone had a great time, and of course the music was tremendous.
My other most memorable concerts are all TCO at their home, Severance Hall: the benefit concert where Bobby McFerrin conducted and had the entire packed house on their feet, laughing, doing the motions to “Itsy Bitsy Spider” … the preview event after the remodeling where all the craftsmen were so (deservedly) proud to show everyone what they had worked on in the Hall … the Youth Orchestra concert where the TCO Concertmaster sat 2nd chair to his talented daughter, who was then Concertmaster of COYO … guess I’ll stop here – you get the idea.
It’s the inclusiveness that brings a lump to my throat. Whether or not classical is their favorite kind of music, local folks are truly proud of their Orchestra, and TCO is increasingly reaching out with neighborhood concerts, performing in school gyms and even encouraging the kids to get up and dance!
This is the great thing about music: Everyone has their preferences, and we can enjoy everything else as well – it’s not “either/or,” it’s “both/and.”
Kind of scary looking these days,
But still sings good
Wow, hard to pick but one that I think about now and then was sometime in the 90s in St. Pete, FL I saw John Prine and The Cowboy Junkies together. It was just an all round great show and when they did Angel From Montgomery together I heard people just say, “Oh. Wow.”
Metallica in ’92(?) was probably the most memorable, because 1)the seats were better in reality than they were on paper 2)annoying group right next to me who’d shoved an extra person into the row and 3)Metallica’s last good album.
2)Queensryche, w/ Suicidal Tendencies opening, ’91 (First concert!)
3)Progressive Nation 2009 (Dream Theater/Zappa Plays Zappa/Scale the Summit/Bigelf) Amazing show, terrible, terrible seat.
4)Def Leppard, ‘9? actually not that memorable, but I’ve only been to four concerts.
You are a man of taste after all. I was beginning to wonder after your ranking of the Coen Brothers’ movies. (HUDSUCKER PROXY? Really? Above FARGO and BIG LEBOWSKI? I think not.)
Most memorable concert – seen but not really heard: Carnegie Hall, February 12, 1964, THE BEATLES. (Yes I’m old.)
Others that stand out:
1. 11/16/2001 Jimmy Buffett’s 9/11 Benefit at Madison Square Garden, an emotional evening to say the least.
2. 9/20/2005 From the Big Apple to the Big Easy: Benefit for Katrina – Jimmy Buffett, Simon & Garfunkel, The Neville Brothers, Lenny Kravitz, John Fogerty, Irma Thomas, Buckwheat Zydeco, Allen Toussaint, Clarence (Frogman) Henry, Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper (& a cast of thousands).
3. 6/17/1967 Barbra Streisand: A Happening in Central Park – free concert. We were there early and up close. She came out early afternoon to rehearse and talked to the crowd.
4. 9/19/1981 Simon & Garfunkel – The Concert in Central Park.
5. any of a number of concerts we saw at the Fillmore East in 1968-71: Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, B. B. King, Blood Sweat & Tears, Jethro Tull, etc.
My most memorable has to be pretty much the first real concert I ever went to. Todd Rundgren with Utopia in Central Park in 1974. I was part of a group of drama students from Kansas making a road trip to see a bunch of plays (which included James Earl Jones in Hamlet). We had a free night and I saw there was a Todd Rundgren concert in Central Park. So, my drama teacher and I went and as mentioned by others at concerts of that time, it had a certain odor that I’d not experienced before. It was also Todd’s birthday, so halfway through the show, they brought out a dynamite plunger and started a fireworks show that the band jammed to. Definitely an eye opening experience for my 16 year old self.
I would vote for Michael Penn in Boston, circa 2007. He was doing a small tour to promote a collection, which is the last non-soundtrack album he’s released. The Paradise is usually a loud, sweaty venue, but it was seemingly transformed into an intimate show. When I search my memory of that concert versus what I know the Paradise looks like, they don’t reconcile. I just had such a great time that my memory has turned the venue into something nicer as well.
And all the dead space between songs while he tuned his guitars (the guy is meticulous) washes away too. It was just really great to see someone I’d long enjoyed live.
Summer of 1976, Neil Young and Steve Stills on their Long May You Run tour, Charleston, South Carolina, support act Poco. I was 18, and it was during my first visit to the USA (I’m British) to work four months in a summer camp in North Carolina under the Camp America scheme. This was my first concert, we went in a mini-bus and I had my first puff of marijuana on the way. We were in a college basketball court, as I recall, and about third row from the front. Neil Young was great, and it helped being near the front as there was a power cut (a feature of many of these memories, it seems) and he did After The Goldrush as an acoustic number with his piano, and not many beyond us could have heard it. Long May You Run and Southern Man were also highlights.
At the summer camp, for July 4th (in the bicentennial year, of course) some of us European types occupied the little island at the waterfront and declared independence. Though that wasn’t found as funny as we thought it was. Then at the end I had ten days on Trailways buses to take in Nashville, New Orleans, Miami, Orlando and the Kennedy Space Centre, Washington DC and the Smithsonian, and finally New York, arriving there as the newspaper headlines reported Mao’s death. Then back to England, and after the weekend I started at art college in Taunton, the county town of Somerset, which was obviously a bit less exciting than trundling round the US.
Another memorable concert was Knebworth festival in 1980, just after my finals. It even has its own webpage, which reports it was “notable for being the last recorded concert featuring the original lineup of The Beachboys” and there are DVDs of it. As well as the Beach Boys there was Mike Oldfield, Lindisfarne, Elkie Brooks and Santana. At one point a B-17 flew around us; later on we were being rained on in damp clothes in a wet field in England in 1980 while on stage the Beach Boys were dressed in Hawaiian shirts and prancing around lit by the light of 1960s California, which was a bit surreal. In the morning the place looked like a mediaeval battlefield, all bodies and small fires.
It was also memorable as it was the first (and last, so far) time I have seen brain matter in the wild. Driving to Knebworth in a friend’s car, we had been held up in traffic due to a fatal accident. Then my friend’s car broke down and had to be towed to a garage. Picking it up the next day, we saw one of the vehicles involvedin the accident – a white Mini that had collided with a lorry, I believe. Anyway, it was in a bad way with dried blood and specks of brain visible. Well, we were told it was brain. Made me think about life and death coming for you out of a clear day.
That one was easier than it should be: an Amanda Palmer concert, here in Holland. Because in the middle of it I realized for the first time I was seriously in love again. No, not with the lovely AP. With the woman who had asked me if I wanted to come along and catch the show.
Really nice concert too, by the way.
>> Emmylou Harris is touring to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Wrecking Ball, which is not only my favorite album of hers but may in fact be my favorite album, period, end of sentence, so I’m traveling today to catch her show.
That’s an odd sentence.
I don’t go to a lot of concerts, so I remember most of them about the same (which is to say, I remember going and buying a t-shirt, and singing along to the songs I like, but not much else). I’ve seen each of these acts once: The Cure, U2, BNL, TMBG, and Tom Petty, and that’s pretty much it (in fact I think it IS it, but I like to hedge a little). Oh, and I’ve seen Blue Man Group in Vegas twice.
But the concert that I remember the best, and relate most often, isn’t a pop act. In college, I got free tix to see the Houston Symphony, conducted, at the time, by Christof Eschenbach (whose name, I’m pretty sure I’ve just butchered) perform The Firebird and Bolero. I don’t remember the Firebird part very well, but during intermission, my companion and I decided to sneak down from our nose-bleed seats into the lower levels (which, on a weeknight were pretty sparsely attended). We ended up on eye-level with the conductor. He came out, and stood perfectly still in the middle of the stage with his back to the audience. There was a lone percussionist in the middle of the rest of the orchestra with that iconic snare drum. And Eschenbach just nodded to the drummer to begin and he carried the beat for the entire piece as Eschenbach didn’t move a single muscle until the last verse when he suddenly came alive to bring the whole thing to its crashing crescendo. It was marvelous.
In college I worked the beer tent at arguably the best outdoor concert venue in the country (or the world, if you’re a Coloradoan) Red Rocks Ampitheatre outside Denver – some of them memorable, but all of them mostly so because of atrocious behavior of the drunks and the stoners, or the band, or the weather. I enjoy concerts not much at all, the sound often seems “off” and bad compared to at home, I hate crowds and drunk/stoned crowds even more and I’m an indifferent music fan in that there are very few acts I really care enough about to endure the crowds and expense to see live. Despite that I would see almost anything at Red Rocks, even in the rain, as long as I didn’t have to go home with sneakers smelling of Coors Light. The great thing about that particular venue is how it can transcend a mediocre act, and actually elevate it to something great, just by virtue of the beautiful space they are performing in.
My husband on the other hand is a huge music fan, loves live shows, and has been to hundreds of concerts. Last year he convinced me to bundle our summer vacation into a trip to see Farm Aid in upstate NY. The crowds were horrendous, the venue was poorly organized, it was freezing cold and pouring rain, the only act on the agenda that night I was into was Willie Nelson (who came on last of course)….but Pete Seeger made a surprise appearance. Seeger is one of our favorites and one of the first that my husband and I found we had “musical commonality” over (music is generally one of those things where our tastes diverge radically) and his appearance made that concert very very special, rather then the endurance event it was turning into for me. I think he was 93 or 94 (he died just a few months later) and could barely sing but it was a privilege to have him lead a crowd I was in in song.
Jethro Tull. In 1977, I think. Songs From the Wood tour. My first concert, although that’s not why it was memorable. It was memorable simply for being what it was.
Steve Miller Band, late 1970s, Blossom Music Center. I swear, God was running the lightboard. Horrible grey day at an outdoor ampitheater. Opening act leaves the stage, and WHOOMPH, the clouds parted just enough for an almighty sunbeam to stream down the hill & hit center stage as Miller got to the mike. Incredible show, and no, I wasn’t smoking!
Summer 1975, Kutztown State College (now called “Kutztown University”) near my home town. I was home from college where I’d become acquainted with the very eclectic The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle LP by this Springsteen fellow from nearby New Jersey. My Brooklyn-native college roommate was visiting.
The show was in a typical college gym with folding chairs. Soon I found myself dancing on top of mine, much to my surprise. Heard the 7-note instrumental opening of “Born to Run” and knew it was going to be a big enduring hit – this was without the strings, chimes, etc., of the studio version that wouldn’t be released for another month or so. Also, a slow, sexy version of “The E Street Shuffle” quite unlike the LP, and “Sandy” among the encores.
I did not become a multi-concert fan (although I’ve known several people who’ve attended dozens); my third and last E Street Band show was in 1988, the same year and venue – now torn down – where I saw the first show of Prince’s “Lovesexy” tour. That was great fun, and he hadn’t started to repeat himself musically yet.
Sorry, almost forgot: the Rolling Thunder Revue, twice, in November 1975. Joni Mitchell was a guest for that leg of the tour, but I didn’t like her Hissing of Summer Lawns songs as much as I’d hoped. Dylan could still sing, though, and “Hurricane” (with Scarlet Rivera on fiddle) was two orders of magnitude tighter and more involving than the recorded version.
1985. Reno. Berlin was touring with the Thompson Twins. The show Berlin played that night was their last with keyboardist David Diamond, who had been with the band since its start. The emotional reactions on stage when they finished their final song were intense and absolutely broke my heart.
I also remember a great Duran Duran show during their Seven and The Ragged Tiger tour. But that was memorable mostly because I was 14 and hormonal and completely dorked out by being in the same room with Nick Rhodes. I was so excited just to be on the same side of the room. It felt like we were meant to be.
Dinosaur Jr. back in late 1990 or early 1991. There was an opener that we almost skipped because they had a really stupid name that sounded like some hippy jam band, but one of my friends had heard them and persuaded us to go early enough to see them, which was fortunate. Who would have thought that a band called “Nirvana” would tear the roof off the place like that?
I saw that Pogues tour with Joe Strummer singing, too — never got to see the Clash but it was great to see some of their stuff live. (I think I have now seen everyone in the band live, just not all together.)
A somewhat different sort of concert: Cantata Singers, Elmira, NY, May 1969 — I was in the second soprano section. If not the highest point of my life, damned close; it really doesn’t get better than that.
I went to an Agnostic Front concert at the 9:30 club in DC and I wound up being the only punk in a sea of skinheads. I decided to brave the pit anyway. I didn’t die, but I can’t really tell you much more than that, other than the euphoria may have masked a mild concussion.
1st one, Savoy Brown Blues Band, August 1968, Detroit. I forget the name of the venue.
Most memorable, Itzhak Perlman playing Sibelius’ Violin Concerto at the Hollywood Bowl, mid 70’s. Also John Fahey at the Troubadour, also mid-70’s.
And then there were all those Dead shows…
Several years back, I saw Anton Kuerti performing two of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas. It was amazing– not just the technique, but he played this complex, beautiful music completely from memory.
Joelz – I was at that same Moodys/Morrison show. Saw The Who do “Tommy” in it’s entirety plus the rest of “Live at Leeds” in 1970. Had never seen/heard anything like that – still haven’t, and probably never will. Zappa on the “Roxy and Elsewhere” tour – beyond astonishing. But the very most memorable was a show in a small theater with about a hundred folks – Bela Fleck and Sandip Burman (classically trained tabla player, but his peers think think he’s a wild-ass radical); Bela spent alot of time just trying to COUNT. Polyrythm is almost a weak word for what was going on on that stage. Unbelievable.
And yes, I’m old, but damned if I’ll act like it.
The Clash, 1981, at Bond’s, in NYC; amazingly, this show was not sold out…
Bonnie Raitt in 1984 at the Grant Street Dance Hall in Lafayette – she came out and sat on a stool off to the side and sang harmony with her opening act.
Eric Taylor in a bar with about 50 people in the late 90’s. Nanci Griffith had tracked him down in his hotel room just before he came over to tell him that Townes Van Zandt had died…
It’s hard to pick out one “best” show.
I saw The Talking Heads twice and loved the shows, but my favorite was when the Hollywood High cheerleaders opened for them (at The Palladium if I recall correctly). I also saw Devo at the Santa Monica Civic when we were all in folding chairs, which was memorable because of the poor guy next to me who spent the entire concert with his head between his legs being sick. I saw Van Halen on their opening tour and I saw Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band open for Bachman Turner Overdrive. (We knew at the time that Bob Seger was never gonna make it. Ha!) I saw Frank Zappa once, which was amazing. I saw The Dead Kennedys standing right before the stage (at The Whisky, I think it was). So many good shows over the years …
My buddy and I had season tickets to the “Jazz at the Bowl” series and we went each year for 18 years. I saw Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald together on stage, and I saw Herbie Hancock and Oscar Peterson duel it out on twin pianos. I miss that series.
Sorry for the long recital. It seems like a lot, but I know how many classic bands and memorable shows I missed. One of my biggest regrets as I enter my golden years is that I didn’t attend more live music concerts.
Sara Bareiles at the Canopy Club in Champaign, IL. She is a fantastic and engaging performer that excels in these “intimate” venues…Also saw her at the Egyptian Room at the Old National in Indianapolis. Also a great concert. Though, some day, I hope to see her at a venue with chairs….I’m getting too old to stand for 4 hours.
The most memorable concert was my first- Alice Cooper in Milwaukee at the amphitheater on the lakefront. I went with my dad and brother and two of my brothers friends. I was in 8th grade, and bored silly because I didn’t know any of the songs. The song I most remember, though, was when they did Frankenstein like it was in Wayne’s World
I can’t remember if it was my first or 2nd rock concert, but it was my 14th summer. The band was Yes, and it was the Tales from Topographic Oceans tour. They had this incredible vertebra-like light structure. It was designed by Roger Dean, who did their album covers (and if you saw Avatar but didn’t notice its production design’s resemblance to his work… it’s worth checking out!).
At that time I only knew their one big chart hit, which was Roundabout. Yes was an amazing band with diverse influences, a magical quality, and some very complex melody & rhythm mixes… plus Jon Anderson’s angelic vocals and spiritual-to-downright-obscure lyrics.
So there I am, 14 years old, standing in an auditorium full of 2nd-hand pot smoke for the first time, with this lobsterlike vertebra creature:
beaming love-lasers over the crowd while the music shimmers and burns. I experience not only the contact high, but also a confirmation that music can go right through to my bones and create some kind of connection with other human beings that is bigger than myself. I am in tears of joy.
(the object itself was very tall & impressive, the photo does it no justice!)
I’ve been to many wonderful concerts and a few stinkers since then. u2 is fabulous. Dire Straits is dull as a box of rocks. Pink Floyd is sublime. Beach boys bleh. Bonnie Raitt… omg. Brilliant. Clannad, yawn. Cheap Trick – astonishing. The Who… I’m amazed it really didn’t stick with me, since I adored them.
Relating with the audience and welcoming them into the performance – to make the girl in the nosebleed seats feel like you’ve made contact with her and hugged her heart – my God, what a gift that it. I offer profound thanks to the artists who are able to pull it off.
Nosebleed Seat Girl is now Middle Aged Mommy who has to have a lot of sentences repeated and wishes she’d worn ear protection. So, WEAR EAR PROTECTION.
But for the moments when we’ve all thought, “I’d sell my soul to make a connection with another human being…” perhaps a little hearing loss is worth it.
First Concert was YES doing the “90215” tour in Eppelhiem, Federal Republic of Germany in 1983. They had a holographic laser light show and played in a hockey rink which was crazy with energy. Probably the best concert I ever attended was Kansas opening for Styx “Return to Paradise” Tour in Indianapolis in 1996. Both extremely powerful performances by pro bands that were my favorites. At the time they had there mostly original band members. Saw a few of these power bands in the 2010’s and they are little more than ghost cover bands of there original selves. So sad.
Particularly memorable in terms of history was seeing the final Replacement’s concert in Chicago, but the most memorable personally were the two Julia Fordham shows I saw twenty years apart – the first on my 22nd birthday in Chicago and the latter in Virginia as I skipped class to catch the show. She is a wonderful entertainer and her Concrete Love album is second only to Wrecking Ball in number of plays on my stereo.
Paste Magazine is streaming Wrecking Ball today for those who haven’t heard it.
Chicago playing a concert in Balboa Park, San Diego, with this not very well known group opening for them – the Doobie Brothers :)
Pete Seeger and his grandson. What made it memorable is realizing that, in retrospect, I was not surprised at all to see my then-boss there as well. I always liked Pete’s cross-generational appeal.
Most memorable? The Ramones,1989 at The Ritz (the quondam et futurum Studio 54). I talked a bouncer into letting me sit in the front row center balcony, and watched kids climb the columns to leap back into the mosh pit. I felt like Caligula.
The best concert I have seen in a very long time was Joe Satriani back in the fall of 2013. He came to my little hometown but I had no idea he was coming because my wife had ripped out the only advertising for his show from our only newspaper and bought a ticket for me. Received the ticket on Father’s Day. Ranks as one of the most genuinely surprised moments of my life.
The Mahones, Frank Turner, and Dropkick Murphys. One night, one stage. Words cannot even begin to describe how incredible that concert was.
Independence Day, 1980. The Who, in Dallas … but not so memorable because of the concert itself (Moonie was dead, and Kenny Jones was just not up to the job). I drove to Dallas for the concert from Austin, where I lived, and thus missed connections with my best friend from high school, who’d come to Austin to see her fiancé.
Two weeks later she was dead of amoebic meningitis, caught from swimming in a stagnant backwater of a nearby lake that day.
Most memorable concert I ever went to was in 1994, when Billy Joel played at the United Center in Chicago. I’m not a huge fan, but my wife is so I got tickets for us, her sister, and a friend. Leading up to the concert I was traveling a bunch for my job and got sick, like head spinning sick. Still, it’s a big deal to her so I load everybody up and we head out. Suffice to say I can verify that you can hear a concert at the United Center in the bathrooms just fine. That said, everybody else seemed to have a great time, so I call it time and money well spent.
The first one that comes to mind (and thus, by definition, the most memorable) was Shonen Knife at the Troubadour in West Hollywood in 1998 or so. I don’t think anyone in the place (band included) ever stopped grinning.
Apropos to your concert experience, one of the most memorable (and one of the best) shows I’ve ever seen was the Sunday show of Elton John’s two-day stand at Dodger Stadium in 1975. Amazing show. Just amazing. The show started at about noon (it was scheduled to begin at 1, but everyone was there so they started early, probably so no one in the audience would kill themselves with the three, four and five-layer standing human pyramids they were making on the field). The opening acts were Emmylou Harris and, Joe Walsh. Both played full sets rather than opening-length sets. Then it was just Elton John and his piano for a couple of hours. After an intermission, he came back with band, choir, back-up singers (one, as I recall, was Billie Jean King), and the show lasted until after dark. One highlight: He started singling “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” while it was still full light. By the time the song was ending (yes, it lasted a long time), it was dark in the stadium. Then, as the last chord of the song died out, All the stadium lights came on. Another highlight: The crowd shouting along “Saturday, Saturday” as he sang “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”. There were about 66,000 of us there that day, and I’m fairly sure they could hear us downtown…and maybe clear out in the Valley.
Another memorable show was Crosby, Stills, and Nash at the Fresno District Fair, of all places. They were in exceptional voice that night, and they knew it…they opened with an a capella version of “Blackbird”, and by the end of that song, they were actually high-fiving each other because they knew their voices were really on that night. I was in about the third row for that show, and it was very, very good.
11 May 2009, Leonard Cohen at Wolf Trap. It was pouring down rain in the way that old soldiers hate. In any other circumstances, I’d have been miserable, or left. I did neither.
I was there with some friends. There was a girl, and when he started playing “Take This Waltz” I thought “who am I to blow against the wind?”, so I did. And we danced in the rain and the mud, and we looked into each others’ eyes, and we both thought the same thing.
…but she was seeing someone, and I was seeing someone. It would have been a bad idea for a bunch of reasons. So we just- …went our separate ways.
We got engaged last year.
Lots of very memorable shows in lots of ways…
I keep spiraling around answers – was it the first time I saw Dream Theater? Or Rush at the Gorge, or Rush at Fiddlers Green… or was it the Flaming Lips blowing out the power at Red Rocks… repeatedly…
Maybe Roger Waters at the Gorge (starting a concert by a low-altitude jet flyby is pretty memorable), or maybe it was just seeing Devin Townsend do his thing. Jackyl, with the chainsaw solo? No. Not Jackyl, never Jackyl.
Maybe it was the first G3 tour with Vai, Satriani, Johnson, with Adrian Legg opening, or Jeff Beck at point. blank. deafening. range?
Tears for Fears from on the side of the stage?
Actually – it was King’s X. October 2001. It was a weird time as many of you may remember. I can’t even really describe the show, except it was the only one I left as a different person than I went in to it – and the only song I even really remember them playing was “Over my head.”
Maybe memorable isn’t the word. Maybe “best” is.
Johnny Cash, Circle Star Theater in San Carlos CA, February 1977. Just amazing.
@Jeff Soesbe I was at that same show. The Pogues at the Warfield with Joe Strummer subbing in for Shane McGowan. People kept yelling “Where’s Shane?!?” until one of the band, don’t remember who, yelled back, “He went fishing!” They did a bunch of Clash covers in addition to Pogues songs; including a pretty epic version of “Straight to Hell.”
I am jealous, John. Chicago Sun Times on ELH tour –
First concert I ever saw was 1972, outdoors at the old Cold Stadium in Hartford CT. The middle act was Edgar Winter, main act was Yes. (Part of Yessongs – live – was recorded that night.)
Oh, yeah, the opening act was a new band from California, who had recently released their first album. Called themselves ‘The Eagles.’ Not half bad…
oops, ‘Colt’ Stadium, not ‘Cold’. More coffee!
Weird Al Yankovic. The last 2 concerts, my wife has had the pleasure of being serenaded hand to hand by Al during “Wanna B UR Lover.” He has a way with the ladies.
I saw McCartney on the Wings over America tour in San Francisco at the Cow Palace. Great concert, in the middle everyone else left the stage and he picked up his guitar and played Beatles by himself. Memorable for sure..
An incredibale two days in a row with Steve Earle at the Park West showing why he has become one of, if not the best, American singer-songwriter very early in his career and the Waterboys touring behind Room to Roam.
Sarah McLachlan, in Ottawa, October 23rd, 1997. I’d had a very, very rough year. My dad knew I was a Sarah McLachlan fan, and found out she was coming to town, so he went to buy some tickets for my new girlfriend and me. When he got to the ticket agent, he was told that they had a few seats left, but none very good, and none together. He decided that was better than nothing and pulled out his wallet to pay.
The thing about my dad is, he could sell ice to a penguin – but only if he didn’t know he was doing it. He’s the kind of man the Irish legend of the Blarney Stone is based on, able to talk his way into and out of practically anything, and he honestly has no idea that it’s happening when it is. He just idly strikes up a conversation with someone and the next thing you know, he’s their new best friend and they’ll do anything for him.
Well, as he’s trying to buy these tickets, he’s struck up a conversation with the lady behind the desk, and they’re talking all about the tough year I’d had that year, and how I had a new girlfriend, and we both loved Sarah McLachlan and how happy we would be to get these tickets, especially since the concert was the day before my birthday, and so on and so forth. It’s a real conversation, not just a lengthy monologue. By the time by dad’s got his wallet out to pay for the tickets, they’re practically best friends. He pays for the tickets and the lady hands them over, and my dad realises that he forgot to ask where they were, so he takes a quick look as he prepares to walk away.
He turns back to the lady behind the counter. “I think there might have been a mistake. I thought you said there weren’t any pairs of seats left open?”
“There aren’t,” she said. “Those were supposed to be reserved for a radio station. Don’t tell anyone where you got them. I hope your son has a better year next year.”
The seats were a few over from dead center, just far enough back in the stands that we were barely above eye level with Sarah McLachlan. It was an amazing concert, and yes, the next year was much better.
Oh, and the girlfriend I went with? The first dance at our wedding was to Sarah McLachlan,
Another vote for They Might Be Giants – this one was at the Warfield in the early-mid 90s. Just pure fun – they closed the first set with “Frankenstein” and encored with “YMCA”.
A little concert in upstate NY in 1969. We were half a million strong. The seating wasn’t great.
Blue Cheer somplace on the Stanford Campus, late 60″s, I was 14 and my ears are still ringing
I’ve been to a lot of shows in my life — seen some musicians that I’ll never forget (like Jim Morrison; I stood at the edge of the stage right in front of him, and at one point he nearly stomped on my fingers! but what I most recall is looking in his eyes and they were *empty* — he was dead within a year), and some shows that had a lot to recommend them. But there are three that really stand out:
1) Simon and Garfunkel at Carnegie Hall circa 1966 (I was 13; yes, I’m older than most of you young whippersnappers!). That’s when I learned that the phrase “You could have heard a pin drop” can be true; as Art Garfunkel finished singing “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her,” there was a moment of stunned silence in the entire hall. And then all you heard was one man’s saying softly, “Wow!” before we all breathed again and started applauding. Even my dad, who accompanied me and my sister (and her friend and her dad), and whose usual reaction to ANY music we played was, “Turn that crap down!”, agreed that they were a pretty incredible pair of musicians.
2) Great Big Sea playing in the small upstairs room at the House of Blues in New Orleans in, I think, 2002; an incredibly intimate show from a band that can fill arenas all over Canada and in some places in the U.S. (They’re a Newfoundland band; if you’re not familiar with them, I highly recommend you become so, ASAP!) I’ve seen them in an audience of 8,000, but that show with about 250 devoted fans was SO much more incredible just because it was the one chance they had on a tour of a whole lot of cities to just play for people who knew and loved their music, could sing along with every word (as one does at their shows), and who properly appreciated the importance of vertical motion. :-)
3) Just last weekend, Johnny Clegg, the South African musician who formed and performed with a mixed-race band during the height of apartheid and ever since. The show was everything you want a show to be — fun, exciting, touching, heartbreaking (especially when he performed “The Crossing (Osiyeza),” a tribute to his friend Dudu who’d been assassinated during apartheid), funny, filled with great stories and even greater music. And closing out with “Asimbonanga,” a song he wrote about Mandela many years before he was released from prison; it was a cry for freedom then, it’s a paean to joy today.
My Dad was a big Community Concerts supporter, season tickets, so I saw a lot of classical and foreign touring groups as a youth. But tickets I bought for ourselves, well, The Dead 3 times, once with Bob Dylan and Tom Petty in Akron.
Wife and I saw Gil Shaham with the Boston Symphony at their summer home, Tanglewood, outdoors in what they call their shed… amazing how much sound an artist can make with such a small wooden instrument.
Back in 1971 I saw Doctor John the Night-Tripper in Mobile, Alabama. There was a riot at the end of the show. Fortunately we left, walking briskly, about 10 minutes before the riot squad started screaming across town. A Great Show! Lots of little clubs in New Orleans, great talented old time jazz at Preservation Hall!
Pinetop Perkins, a blues pianist, twice, the last time was his 92nd birthday party in Austin, and I got to shake his hand and complement his talent and hard work.
Judy Collins, at the Cafe Carlyle in NYC, vastly expensive, but we were at a dinner club, maybe 20 feet away from her, it was like being in her living room. What an evening, worth every penny.
Lots of acts in NYC, the clubs, the symphonies. The Village Vanguard Big Band. Jimmy Vaughn at BB King’s NYC club. I’m so glad BB is well to do in his old age!
As a very young boy I badgered my parents into buying tickets to see Louis Armstrong, in St. Petersburg, FL. He was an old man, but he had a real swinging big band, and it was an amazing show. That strain of music is so central to so much American music! I think Pearl Bailey was with the band too, but it was a very long time ago – 50 years I would guess.
Bonnie Raitt – what a talent. Music bubbles from her soul, and if you are anywhere nearby you get covered with it. We saw her open for Little Feat years ago, and left after just a couple of songs by the headliners, she totally stole the show.
Here in W Va the Charleston Symphony is a great small band, they can play anything they have staff for. Taj Mahal on Mountain Stage, and Buddy Guy, and, and, and Muddy Waters, talkin ’bout some mule kickin in my stall door, and Mississippi John Hurt. The 1968 Newport Folk Festival…
Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa, I’m 63, and I’ve been going to live music all my life, so far. Los Lobos, not that great a band on recordings, but live! Live! They rock so hard live, with accordions, baritone sax, all kinds of guitars.
And in Tucson there’s a nightclub restaurant with a real acoustic Mariachi Band, and they sang a sad lonely border love song to my wife, it was superior! 3 kinds of guitar (a giant fretless acoustic bass guitar!) and a trumpet and a fiddle, and singing 3 part harmony so sad, so heartbroken, so well done. What a huge tip I dropped on those wonderful guys!
I have never seen EmmyLou Harris. She is so talented. Her work on the Trio Albums with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt is amazing. Their voices twine together so well, and they worked together so well.
Tell us how the show goes for you!
I saw just about every act the toured in the 1970s and 80s — there were many memorable performances including EltonJohn, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry Chapin, the Eagles, the Doobies, Springsteen, KISS, McCartney, Ringo, and George Harrison separately, Eric Clapton, Emerson Lake and Palmer, pink Floyd, etc. I would have to say, however, that the most memorable one was by a band I’d not heard much about (and had to be talked into going to see by my roommate). They walked out on stage, and this tiny woman with big hair said “this is off our new album which is going to be released on Tuesday” and launched into ‘Chains’ from Rumors.
There was a Black Keys concert during which I ran some thought experiments and figured out how one kind of laser cooling works, and then (victory!) a while later, where the heat from the cooled object went. So that fantastic concert in and of itself will also be forever paired with the joy of discovery.
In my teens, I was never allowed to go to concerts of any kind. Once I got some independence from my parents religious beliefs stranglehold, I met a girl online who helped me realise that I was gay, and we began dating after she visited me for a lovely week in May. We didn’t manage to make the long distance relationship work for very long, but that summer we quietly made arrangements to meet and go to an Evanescence concert in Atlanta. I don’t remember a lot of the concert in detail, just pieces here and there, but it still stands out as one of the best memories of that time in my life. Plus, opening for Evanescence was Breaking Benjamin, Seether, and Three Days Grace. All three are still among my favourite bands, and I still have a soft spot for Evanescence as well. All in all, it was a magical weekend that marked a major turning point of my life and remains the only major concert I have ever been to. Definitely a memorable experience.
Saw an unusual (at first sight) double bill that turned out to be spectacular and a good mix; Ani DiFranco opening with a long couple of sets for a Lyle Lovett and His Large Band show. As I already loved them both, it was a real pleasure to discover they liked each other, and to find just how well Ani’s work segued into Lyle’s show.
Linda Ronstadt, same seat two nights in a row at Pine Knob in Clarkston MI in the mid-70s. I grew up in the area, and worked there summers during college. I made the management promise I could go when I bought the tickets. Linda wore a Cub Scout uniform. Nice.
Is it wrong that I now want to hear Emmylou Harris and Miley Cyrus do a duet album?
Watching Yo-Yo Ma break a string at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in the 1989 or 1990. Gracious and beautiful mannered recovery by the first cello!
I drove to a Pink Floyd concert in another city, about 2 hours away. It was assigned seating in a large open-air stadium. Somehow I managed to be sat next to a guy I knew well and saw every week!
It rained most of the night. I’d brought a towel, which I kept over my head. The guy would help me wring it out and wryly comment “Stay dry, Larry, stay dry.”
I’m sure the concert itself was great, but don’t really remember either way. Sorry, Pink Floyd. :)