That was an AWESOME concert

Quite a few people commented on my post last week concerning awkward concert moments, and it stirred up some good conversation. So that begs a question from the other end of the spectrum: What was your FAVORITE concert or concert moment?

Even when you’re going to see one of your favorite artists perform, there are so many intangibles that can affect your concert experience. So when you come away from a GREAT show, that means that all the stars were aligned just right to make the entire experience a memorable affair. For instance, a couple of years ago, my friend Autumn went to see Coldplay in Chicago. Her sister was taking her as a birthday gift. I asked her the next day how the show was, and she replied, “It was the best concert I ever saw!” Now granted, after show euphoria is quite common, but she followed it up with sound reasoning. She said that the whole day was great. She and her sister got to the city early and did some shopping together, had a great dinner, and both really enjoyed the show.  Thus, the entire experience was memorable.

Last night, my friend Melodie went to see Lenny Kravitz. When I asked her today how she liked the show, she said that it was the best live performance she had ever seen in all the years she has been going to concerts. It was at the Chicago Theatre, which is a great place to see a show, and she is a pretty major fan, so again, all of those factors combined to create a memorable event.

Some of the concerts I have attended have evoked some incredible memories: watching Sting joke with my wife backstage, talking with John Fogarty about how much we both love Delbert McClinton, hanging out with Def Leppard before and after their show and allowing me into their “private” backstage area so we could listen to the new AC/DC album, seeing Ben E. King sing his immortal “Stand By Me” and listening to women swoon as the great Jerry Butler sang “For Your Precious Love” and shaking hands with Butler after the show, being glued to a young Stevie Ray Vaughn in a small club and being literally astounded by his talent, and watching Paul McCartney cover his musical career in one night.

So here goes. From the hundred or so concerts that I’ve seen (hey, I worked in radio back when they would give you tickets for just about any show that came to town), I’ve tried to narrow it down to my:

Top 5 Concert Experiences So Far

5-Todd Rundgren at the Vic/Chicago-1990: This was one of the first shows my wife and I went to, right after the release of his “Nearly Human” album. It was a Friday night…we got to the theatre early and were able to park right across the street. As we were getting out of the car, a big tour bus pulled up. My wife said, “I wonder if that’s Todd’s bus.” I made some remark like “I doubt Todd’s travelling by bus,” but just as I said that, Rundgren came down the steps. I yelled and waved, but he was understandably in a hurry to get inside the venue. I’ve seen Todd more than once, but this show was certainly the best.

4-Grand Funk Railroad at ISU’s Horton Fieldhouse/Normal-1974: I HAVE to mention this one…it was my first concert, and what a show! I was (and still am) a MAJOR Grand Funk fan, and this was when they were hot! It was the “Shinin’ On” tour, and my brother and all of his buddies were going. I begged him to go, and when he said I could come along I gladly sprang the $3.50 for a ticket. When I bought the album, the inner sleeve listed all of the dates on the tour. Sure enough, there it was: “March 23 – Illinois State University, Normal”. Plus, their next album, “Caught in the Act”, was recorded during that tour, so whenever I listen to that CD, it takes me right back to when I was a young man wondering what that funny smelling smoke was.

3-Alice Cooper with Tesla at the Peoria Civic Center Theatre/Peoria-1987: This was my first Alice Cooper show. He was just getting back into touring with the guillotine and his whole act (he had just sobered up), and I couldn’t wait. I went with my friends Scott Robbins and Scott Sprouls, who were also major fans. Before the show, we hung out backstage with Tesla, who were young up-and-comers at the time, and they invited us to watch their set from the side of the stage. Right after they were done, we were hanging out talking with them, and I happened to catch a tall, dark figure out of the corner of my eye. It was Alice, and he was about 6 feet from us. He was pacing, and had his game face on. I nudged Robbins. As we both stared, he finally said, “Think we should approach him? May be our only chance to meet him.” I said, “I don’t think now is a good time…he has a pretty intense look on his face.” Years later, Scott and I were both able to spend time with Alice. We told him the story, and he jokingly said that he probably would have killed us if we had approached him (at least I think he was joking). After the concert, we went to a strip joint and the Tesla guys joined us there. What a hoot!

2-Brian Wilson at the Chicago Theatre/Chicago-2006: I was always a little reluctant to see Brian when he started touring again. Quite frankly, being the fan that I am, I just didn’t want to be disappointed. But when he and his uber-talented band finished the legendary “SMiLE” album, and he was playing it live in it’s entirety, my friend John and I knew we had to go. The first part of the show consisted of the band playing several Beach Boys favorites, then there was about a 20 minute intermission. When they returned to the stage, they played SMiLE from front to back. I had chills. I seriously could not believe that I was listening to a complete version of an album that was started clear back in 1966…and it was finally complete. Many of the bits and pieces I had heard over the years didn’t seem to make much sense…but when it all came together, it was magical. John and I saw the same show in St. Louis the following year, and since I knew a couple of the guys in Brian’s band, I was finally able to meet my idol face-to-face. It was a surreal experience, and almost worthy of it’s own blog entry.

1-Stevie Wonder at the U of I Assembly Hall/Champaign-1986: Stevie Wonder is a freakin’ legend in my eyes, and I couldn’t believe that he was touring. I got tickets right away, and they were pretty good seats. It was one of those situations where everything was in perfect alignment, and the entire experience was a memorable event…the people I was with, the buzz that I got on the way there (and on the way home), the events that occurred after I got home…everything came together to make it my most unforgettable concert memory. I have chills just thinking about it.

Well, you know what’s next. I want to hear about YOUR most unforgettable concert, or list your top five if you would like! I can’t wait to hear your stories.

On a final note, farewell Don Cornelius…a very talented man with great vision and a voice like no other.

May you rest in peace.


About groovyrick

I live in a small town in Illinois with my wife and three kids. I am a part-time musician, part-time writer, and full-time dreamer.
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5 Responses to That was an AWESOME concert

  1. jesmolen says:

    WOW! You’ve seen some great shows! Here are my top 5:
    Honorable Mention: Supergrass, February 2003: I was newly pregnant with Carrie and they were playing a bar in Chicago. We all went next door for a beer (except me. I had a pop) and the band came and hung out! AND I was hit on my the lead singer. He was creepy. But STill! Party with the band!
    5: Horde Festival, 1995: Black Crowes headlined and played from their best album, Southern Harmony Musical Companion. First summer after freshman year of college, first summer with Patrick, first big music festival.
    4: Radiohead, 2001: Grant Park Chicago- daylong crazy fun with guys in the band, Radiohead touring Kid A & previewing new electronica
    3. Tie: Rolling Stones at Kaminsky (2002) vs Red Hot Chili Peppers (1996) at Assembly Hall Impossibly far away at both concerts but the company was great and the music was great
    2. Rolling Stones at United Center, 2002 with the Pretenders. Pat’s brother won tickets from The Loop and since he already had floor seats gave them to us. Turns out the platform was a catwalk and it was like we had the closest seats possible. So close I could see just how awkward a dancer Mick is, as well as how much fun Keith Richards has. Musically, a fun group and a great concert.
    1. Yes, the Black Crowes at Aragon Ballroom Valentines day, 1997. Engaged to Patrick, the last great romantic gesture before getting married, Black Crowes were touring Amorica one of the soundtracks we fell in love too… too bad anything after that album sort of sucks.

    • groovyrick says:

      You’ve been to some great shows yourself! Funny story connecting the Crowes and Stones. My friend Scott was able to go backstage on one of the Stones tours where the Black Crowes were opening in Chicago. He said that he was standing near Chris Robinson and Jagger having a conversation (they were actually meeting for the first time). Robinson invited Mick to stop by his hotel room to party after the show and said “I’m at the Hilton registered as Lamont Sanford.” After that story, whenever the Crowes were in Chicago, I’ve wanted to call the Hilton and ask for Lamont Sanford.

  2. Nice memories and concerts, Rick! My favorite concert has to be my first concert I ever went to: Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966 in Louisville, Ky. I went with my brother Jim, he was ten and I was eight. There were tons of local bands on the bill, but the two “opening acts” were Keith Allison and Tommy Roe. The Raiders were great and the girls were going nuts. A wonderful memory!

  3. I couldn’t think of much, except for just the sheer feeling of being in the same “room” with Willie Nelson or LInda Ronstadt or Emmylou or Alabama or Black Oak Arkansas or Bob Dylan and the Band or a very few others, or sitting about 20 feet from Patty Loveless in a small theater and having her smile right back at me for what seemed like a minute, and knowing that she would leave her hubby for me (or was she thinking I was unhinged and maybe she should call security) if she didn’t love him so much.
    Then I remembered a “Nazareth/Billy Squier” concert at Sioux Falls back in the early 80s. The music was great but the 2 girls I went there with had to muscle their way up to the front. I think I finally moved back to get out of the pushing and shoving mass. For years after, I’d meet various people only to find out later that they had been at that same show, including the woman who is 9 years younger than me and is the mother of my child. She bragged to me once how good she had been as a teen at using her elbows in people’s sides to bull her way up to the front row of concert crowds, and I recalled that back then some “good looking dumb young bitch” had elbowed her way rudely past me at that show, and kind of remember looking oddly at her and her looking oddly at me. Did we somehow know we’d hook up 30-some years later? Hell, no, but it is weird and cool as hell. By the way, she’s an okay-to-good-looking “early-middle-aged” dumb bitch now. 😉

  4. John Evans says:

    My favorite concerts may have been ones you were at too, because most of them were at ISU! Joni Mitchell with the LA Express shortly after “Miles of Aisles” was released. Just astounding, and the sound (even in HORTON!) was pristine and clear.

    Fleetwood Mac at ISU Braden. It was the first tour with Buckingham/Nicks and Stevie’s hair was still dark. Seeing the intimate telepathy between Mick and John was a huge impact on what a rhythm section should sound like to me. Lindsey’s unique guitar playing reminded me very much of George Harrison’s service to the song, not the instrument. And Ms. Nick’s physique appealed to many purient interests….

    Tower of Power at Horton. They were the second act of a three-act bill with the whitest guys on Motown, Rare Earth as the headliner. The first act got snowed into Chicago so TOP came out and played a longish set. There was a LONG delay before RE finally came out and phoned in a perfunctory 45 minute set. Never let the the drummer be the front man, OK? The stiffest vocals I’ve ever heard! Anyway, there’s a blizzard going on outside and the night was still young. So, TOP’s roadies came out and set up again, and TOP kicked butt for a long time that night. I only wish I’d understood what was going on with Rocco and Garibaldi at the time…

    Eric Clapton at some big outdoor concert up north- the “Money & Cigarettes” tour. The band included Albert Lee on guitar, Chris Stantion on keys, and Duck Dunn on bass!!! Plus Muddy Water’s widow was backstage. Clapton came out and dedicated the show to her. The first solo was OK, and the band was cooking well. But just before the second solo started, you could sense the band changed, as if something was about to happen. And it did. One of those perfect “make the audience cry with one note” guitar solos that Clapton does when he’s at his best. It was all about passion pouring out of Blackie and the band knew it was about to happen. I turned to my friend Bill and said “And that’s why he’s Eric Clapton”.

    Muddy Waters at Horton- He was the opening act for Sha Na Na, sadly. Way before the “blooze revival”, Muddy was working as the opening act for a retro greaser band. It could have been sad (as was seeing Little Richard at The Red Lion with the LAMEST band I’ve ever heard). But it wasn’t at all sad. It was wonderful. It was Muddy baring his soul for us. And the two greasers sitting next to us were REALLY REALLY into Muddy’s show and his band. After Muddy was done, they chatted with Phil and I for a few minutes, and then said “Well, see ya ’round”, and walked away. Imagine our surprise when we saw them a little bit later on stage. It was the guitarist and bassist for Sha Na Na!

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