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.