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“Get Back to Where You Once Belong”

October 3, 2015

I have been to a lot of  rock/pop concerts (about 50) over the past 43 years, beginning with my freshman year at Brown. However, I have begun to realize that I was starting to forget those important moments of my life and now would be a good time to refresh my memories by blogging about my concert experiences. So with a little assistance from friends and Google, I present to you my top concert experiences of all time.

First, a few ground rules. My list is not a ranking of my favorite artists per se, and for a variety of reasons a few of my favorite groups are not even on my list. Also, I have seen several groups multiple times (most notably, Chicago, the Moody Blues and the Who three times each), but only included one concert for each of these groups. I based my ranking on several factors which included (1) overall performance of the artist(s) at the particular concert (2) songs played at the concert (3) concert venue and where I was sitting (4) opening act (if any) songs and performance and (5) personal reasons such as who I was going with to the concert. And if you are wondering why the Rolling Stones, Simon (with or without) Garfunkel, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young or Bob Dylan are not on the list, well unfortunately I have managed to miss them, most recently the Stones this past May in Columbus.

In the end, I came up with 12 favorites but must admit that I had a lot of favorites that could easily be on the list as well. (See my “honorable mention” list)

So without further adieu, here is my dynamic dozen concerts:

(1) “It’s Getting Better All the Time” McCartney – Fall 2002 at Value City Arena Columbus, Ohio with my dear wife Anne. Maybe this goes without saying that seeing the last surviving Beatle, (other than Ringo) would make the top of my list. But this particular concert and its timing made it even better than my pretty high expectations. For one, after years of touring as Wings or McCartney and playing mostly Wings material, by the late 1990s after Linda’s death McCartney had shifted to doing far more old Beatles songs ( particularly HIS Beatles compositions) . I hadn’t realized that this shift was occurring and was completely blown away by McCartney’s performance and his playlist. McCartney’s voice was still very strong and melodic ( He was 59 at the time, a youngster!) . McCartney’s playing particularly keyboards was excellent and he had great backup band and singers. The playlist began with “Hello Goodbye” and also included such great Beatle songs as “All My Loving” “Getting Better” “We Can Work it Out” “Mother Nature’s Son” “You Never Give Me Your Money/Carry that Weight” “Fool On the Hill” “Something” (ukulele version as homage to George) “Eleanor Rigby” “Here There and Everywhere” ” Get Back” “Hey Jude” “Back in the USSR” ” Blackbird” ” Let it Be” “Can’t Buy Me Love” “I Saw Her Standing There” “The Long and Winding Road” (minus the Specter overproduction on the Let it Be album) “Yesterday” …and finishing fittingly with ” Sgt Pepper’s ( reprise)/ The End”. And his Wmgs/McCartney songs included “Maybe I’m Amazed” “Band on the Run” “Jet” “Live and Let Die” and “Every Night” among his best solo compositions…. I rest my case!

(2) “And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time”. Elton John/ Billy Joel February 18 2001 MGM Grand in Las Vegas with Anne – There are several reasons this concert is #2. First and foremost, after nearly 3 years of suffering with chronically bad back pain which ultimately required me to take a 3 month leave of absence during 2000, I was finally traveling again. In fact, the Vegas trip was the first trip Anne and I took alone in more than 5 years and this concert was the first I had seen in more than a decade. Second, we had great seats up about 10 rows on one side of the stage. Third , I love Elton John and much of Billy Joel’s music and they played for three hours. The sound quality and piano playing with the two occasionally “dueling” with each other was great and the vocals sounded the same as they did in the 70s.

And the set list was extraordinary start to finish, beginning with “Your Song” and “Just the Way You Are” by both Elton and Billy and then moving to an all Elton John set which included many of my favorites “Don’t Let the sun go down on me” “Funeral for a Friend’ ‘Someone Saved My Life” “Philadelphia Freedom” “All the girls love Alice” “Rocket Man” “Levon” Tiny Dancer” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” . Elton then did one of his favorite Billy Joel songs “Uptown Girl” -an excellent rendition. Elton then finished his solo set with “Sad Songs” , the rollicking ” I’m Still Standing” , “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Nights Alright” . Billy Joel’s set was almost as impressive “I Go to Extremes” “Movin’ Out” “Prelude/ Angry Young Man” “New York State of Mind” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant ” and finishing with “We Didn’t Start the Fire” “It’s Still Rock N Roll” and “Only the Good Die Young” . Interspersed amidst the hits was Billy’s excellent cover of Elton’s “Take Me to the Pilot” as well as good covers of “Mack the Knife” and The Beatles “Oh Darling”.

For the encore, John and Joel together did “My Life” “Bitch is Back” “You May Be Right” ( my favorite Billy Joel song) , “Bennie and the Jets” “Candle in the Wind” and “Piano Man” as well as some more excellent versions of Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” and The Beatles’ “Come Together” and “A Hard Day’s Night”. All and all an unbelievably good concert.

(3) “Help Me Now I Just Got to Get Back to the House at Pooh CornerLoggins and Messina/ Jim Croce Feb-March 1973 at Univ. of Rhode Island gym with several Brown Univ. friends–This was my first rock, folk or pop concert ever, and as such I hold a special appreciation for the experience. Further, this was a great concert in almost every respect (1) Loggins and Messina were at their peak in terms of material having just released their second album ( a good effort) after an outstanding first album “Sittin’ In”. (2) Jim Croce although comparatively less known at the time had just released two albums during 1972 and one in early 1973 from which was going to come much of his touring material and must of his hit records (“You Don’t Mess around with Jim” “Time in a Bottle” “Operator” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” ) (3) We were in a relatively small venue and fairly close to the music.

Jim Croce started things off as the opening act. (In retrospect, that he was “only” the opening act was pretty amazing). Not only was his singing and acoustic guitar playing great, but the songs were all interesting and fun. Further, he told stories as lead-ins to some of his songs  such as “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” “Roller Derby Queen” and “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim”. In fact, he almost stole the whole show as just the opening act!

But, Loggins and Messina were even better. They had numerous backup musicians including a flutist, a violinist, horns as well as the more standard rock n roll instruments. Their songs were great; their singing was wonderful and the guitar/bass and orchestration was outstanding.  They did several great long jam songs  such as “Vahevella” (featuring a lengthy flute solo); “Angry Eyes” “Same Old Wine” and “Trilogy”. Loggins did several great solo renditions such as “Danny’s Song” and my favorite “House at Pooh Corner”. And of course they played their other hits as well such as “Your Mama Don’t Dance” , “Thinking of You” “Nobody but You” and “Back to Georgia”.

(4) “Talkin’ Bout My Generation” The Who Jan/Feb. 1976 at Providence Civic Center  by Myself— The first time I saw the Who came about almost serendipitously. My girlfriend Molly and I had overslept and missed getting in line for tickets for the Who in the late fall of 1975. However, by chance, one of my dorm friends knew someone who had ONE extra ticket that they would be willing to give me. I REALLY wanted to see the Who so I thought what the heck. With open seating, I didn’t end up getting the greatest seat (Up high in the middle of the Providence Civic Center–not close but not too far away), because I wasn’t willing to line up hours/days before the concert “all by myself”. However, once the concert began I soon forgot where I was sitting or that I was alone. The Who played all their hits, starting with their 1960s hits “I Can’t Explain” “Substitute” “My Generation” “I Can See Miles” “Pictures of Lilly” “Pinball Wizard” “Magic Bus” and my favorite “Happy Jack” being the most memorable and then played several cuts from their  then current album “Who By Numbers” such as “Squeeze Box” and “Dreaming from the Waist”. They finished with most of the “Who’s Next” album including GREAT renditions of Entwistle’s “My Wife” , “Baba O’Riley” “The Song is Over” “Bargain” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Though I was somewhat disappointed that the Who didn’t play more from “Quadrophenia” and “Tommy”, I still loved the concert.

The Who put on a great show with all four original members and the very high quality of the vocals and their music. I was also fascinated by the Who’s involuntary choreography which began with Townshend’s guitar playing splits and leaps, Daltry’s almost athletic vocals, contrasted with John Entwistle’s virtually stationary bass playing. But Keith Moon stole the show with his violent drumming that periodically resulted in a drumstick flying out of his hand and into the crowd. Never fear, he merely grabbed another from below his drum set.

(5) “Good Times I Remember” Chicago Feb 2002 in Las Vegas with brother Geoff and John Lum– Seeing Chicago in concert in a very small venue was an experience I will never forget. Also, it turned out that Geoff was getting married that May and the Vegas trip was an extended bachelor’s party of sorts. Even with many of its members in their late 50s or early 60s, the playing particularly of the brass instruments was beautiful and the vocals were as good as on the albums. Chicago opened  with the beautifully flowing 13 minute set “Ballet of a Girl from Buchanan” (most of Side 2 of Chicago II) which included “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World” interspersed with great musical connecting songs. The evening included just about every important Chicago song over the previous 30+ years including “25 or 6 to 4” “Old Days” “Does Anybody Want to Know What Time it Is” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry/Get Away” “Lowdown” “Beginnings”  “Stronger Every Day” “Just You and Me” “Searchin So Long” among many others.

(6) “Reflections of My Mind” Moody Blues/Adam Kilzer Band Wolf Trap VA July 1988 with Anne (and Kathleen in utero). (Also saw almost identical concert a year earlier at Wolf Trap) – The Moody Blues have always ranked among my most favorite groups and I own almost every album/CD that they have recorded. Our seats were good (in the pavilion not the lawn) and the music was great. They did all of my favorites  for almost three hours ranging from their earliest efforts from 1967’s “Tuesday Afternoon” “Nights in White Satin”; 1968’s “Ride My See Saw” “Voices in the Sky” “Legend of a Mind” to 1970’s “Question” and 1971’s “The Story in Your Eyes” and “One More Time to Live”  and 1972’s ” I’m Just a Singer in A Rock N Roll Band” “You and Me” and “Isnt Life Strange” to their most recent albums in the 1980’s “The Voice” “Gemini Dream”, “The Other Side of Life” and “Your Wildest Dreams”.  Vocals were great (particularly Justin Hayward) and John Lodge’s guitar playing was particularly good along with surprisingly good flute playing of Ray Thomas. Relative newcomer Patrick Moraz (formerly of Yes) sounded great on the keyboards. I was in seventh heaven and I know Anne enjoyed as well (albeit a tad uncomfortable). And, unofficially, it was Kathleen’s first concert!   

(7) “It’s My Life and I’ll Do What I Want” Eric Burdon and the New Animals Las Vegas, Nevada Jan 2003– While I am a fan of the Animals and own almost all of their music, this concert vaulted to near the top of list because of the small venue (literally a large side room of a casino) and our seats (2nd row center only a few feet away from Eric Burdon!). Burdon sang like it was the 1960s again and the song list was an Animals greatest hits list including ALL of my favorites (e.g.  “We Gotta Get Out of this Place”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “Don’t Bring Me Down”, “It’s My Life”, “San Franciscan Nights”, “When I Was Young” and of course,  “House of the Rising Sun”). However, the moment I will never forget is after Burdon did a particularly good rendition of “Sky Pilot” and I was standing and applauding, he came over and high-fived me. Now that was a memory! 


(8) Four Tops February 1980 Palo Alto Square Palo Alto, California –   My first concert with Anne and one of the most “up-close” experiences with a group that I have ever had. The Palo Alto Square was a restaurant/bar/ dance floor which was comparatively small. When the Four Tops began to play, we were able to get up and dance to the music literally only a few feet away from Levi Stubbs and the other Tops. I felt like we were at a wedding where they had hired the Four Tops to play. They did all their hits of course and sounded great. What utter fun!

(9) Rod Stewart/Doobie Brothers May 1973 at Providence Civic Center– As part of Brown spring weekend my freshman year, we were able to get floor seats to see the Doobies and Rod Stewart. The Doobie Brothers were the opening act and in my opinion were so outstanding that they stole the show. It didn’t hurt that they had only two months earlier, the Doobies had released what was to become one of the greatest rock albums ever “The Captain and Me” which included “Long Train Runnin’ ” “Without You” “South City Midnight Lady” “Clear as the Driven Snow” “Natural Thing” and of course “China Grove”. These tracks when coupled with tracks from their 1972 album “Toulouse Street” with “Jesus is Just Alright” and “Listen to the Music” made for an energetic and wonderful opening act.

Though overshadowed by the Doobies, Rod Stewart gave a great performance as well. This included the excellent guitar work of Ron Wood (later guitarist with the Stones) and the other members of the Faces who performed regularly with Stewart at the time. Rod stuck primarily with material from (1) his massively successful 1971 album “Every Picture Tells a Story” including the megahit “Maggie Mae” “I Know I’m Losing You” “Mandolin Wind” “Reason to Believe” and the outstanding title track and (2) his 1972 album “Never a Dull Moment” which included his great covers of Hendrix’s “Angel” and Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away” and the 1972 hit “You Wear it Well”.  Added into the mix included the Faces “Stay with Me” one of my favorite songs.

(10) Heart Central Park NYC Summer 1978 – The venue was great, outdoors in Central Park, but in a reasonably small grandstand where we sat pretty close. Heart (particularly Nancy Wilson on guitar) and their backup band played great and Ann Wilson vocals were outstanding. The song list was superb with “Magic Man” “Crazy on You” “Love Alive” “Barracuda” ” Heartless” “Straight On” and “Kick it Out” of particular note. And of course this was at the peak of popularity for Heart and included other material from their first three albums.   

(11 ) Eric Clapton with special guest Steve Winwood at Value City Arena Columbus, Ohio June 2009- Though I had seen Clapton perform individually, seeing him perform with Steve Winwood was a special treat. Winwood’s vocals were excellent, his keyboard AND guitar playing were noteworthy, while Clapton’s guitar work was per usual outstanding. Of particular note was their playing of four of the six songs from the one and only Blind Faith album ( a collaboration of Winwood, Clapton, Rich Grech and Ginger Baker in 1969) – “Had to Cry Today” “Can’t Find My Way Home” “Well Alright” and “Presence of the Lord” – where Clapton outdid himself during the guitar solo). In addition, their set list included several Winwood solo or Traffic compositions (e.g.the guitar infused “Split Decision”, “Glad” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy”) as well as several Clapton standards from solo/Derek and the Dominoes days (e.g. “Layla”, “After Midnight” “Little Wing” “Forever Man” and “Cocaine”). My only complaint being an even bigger fan of Winwood than Clapton was that we didn’t hear more of Winwood’s solo stuff such as ” While You See a Chance” “Higher Love” “Back in the High Life” “The Finer Things”, but this was a pretty small complaint in retrospect.

(12) Barenaked Ladies/ Ingrid Michaelson May 2010 Columbus, Ohio with my daughter Maryanne – My one entry for a post-1980s group is on the list for several reasons. First, it is the only time that I have taken either of my two daughters to a concert and that made it pretty special. Second, we had great seats in about the fifth row of the Palace Theatre in Columbus Ohio. Third, Ingrid Michaelson was one of Maryanne’s favorites and I confess that I really enjoyed her. Fourth, the Barenaked Ladies remain my favorite 1990s/early 00s group and it was great to hear them live. Their humor, clever lyrics, shotgun-style singing and harmonies and their sound musicianship made them unique among the 1990s bands. I loved hearing “One Week”, “Pinch Me” “Shoebox” “It’s All Been Done” and their other hits as well as their more current stuff.

Honorable Mention –Springsteen (2008); Boston/Kansas (2012); Police/Pretenders (2008); Fleetwood Mac (Winter 1976-77); Eagles/Roy Orbison (1980); Monkees/Grass Roots/Herman’s Hermits/Gary Puckett (1986)

So what are some of your favorites?

From → Music 60s70s

  1. Robert Carey permalink

    Interesting list. I will have to leave a detailed reply, but it may take me a while to assemble one.

  2. Robert Carey permalink

    Blues Magoos, The Who, Herman’s Hermits 1967
    This was the first rock concert I ever attended and the only time I ever heard The Who live. Constitution Hall in DC. One of the mysteries.

    Mothers Of Invention, Garrick Theater, 1967
    Their last night at the Garrick Theater. Exceptional. Ray Collins stands out in my memory.

    Jack Bruce and Friends, Fillmore East, 1970
    Not a good show, but the highlight, Mitch Mitchell’s drum solo, was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

    John Prine, Calvin Theater, Northampton, MA 2009
    My wife got me tickets to this. Prine had been ill for some time and we were expecting a low energy performance. He played with two other guys and it was an unbelievably energetic, powerful, long show. Also crystal clear – the kind of presentation where you would not want to make a single error. They didn’t.

    Iggy Pop, Great Gildersleeves, NYC 1980?
    I saw Iggy many times in this period, mostly in front of audiences of people who were trying to look and act like him. Then I saw him at Gildersleeves, which was populated by kids who came in to Manhattan from Queens for a rock show. I think he preferred playing for them. This was better than his performances at any punk rock club that I ever attended.

    Pere Ubu and The Suicide Commandos, The Rat, Boston, 1978
    A great tour.

    Magazine, Hurrah, NYC, 1979
    The only time I saw them. Great stage presence. Great lyrics. Great music.

    X, The 80s, NYC early 1980s?
    X almost never played on the East Coast. I caught them at a restaurant that had been turned into a night club on east 86th street. There was no stage and I think there were a dozen people in the audience. It was excellent, but I wish I could have caught them playing to a larger audience (although this small one was very enthusiastic.)

    Devo, Max’s Kansas City, 1977
    Their material worked much better in 1977 when the guitars played a major part. Most of the stuff on Duty Now For The Future sounded great before they tried to turn it into some kind of electronica. This was before any of their albums were released.

    Yo La Tengo, Nick Lowe, Kings Theater, Brooklyn, 2015
    Yo La Tengo gets better and better. I love the line up with Dave Schramm on guitar and James McNew playing standup bass. Nick Lowe played an acoustic set of his songs that were every bit as powerful as the recordings with a full band.

    The Raybeats, Peppermint Lounge, 1981
    (This could have been at Danceteria and it may have been 1980.) The Raybeats with George Scott on bass was probably my favorite band to hear live, ever. There was some kind of magic in the interaction between the drums and the bass, and the other stuff just wailed over the top. Never saw a bad Raybeats concert. The recordings don’t do them justice.

    Scout, Bandshell, Central Park NYC, 1971
    Scout was the best band no one ever heard of in the 70s. Most of its members were high school students at the time. Most have gone on to careers in music – notably Justin Dello Joio who is a composer and professor at NYU, and Doane Perry who is now drummer for Jethro Tull. Amazing original material and an amazing sound. It is a shame none of this was captured.

    Funkadelic, Madison Square Garden, 1977?
    Hearing Mike Hampton perform Maggot Brain live was a definite high point in my concert-going experience.

    Unholy Modal Rounders, Broadway Charley’s, 1976?
    I don’t know how many times I heard them here. They played a lot. This was my favorite version of the Rounders to hear live by far. I should also mention just about any performance by Michael Hurley. They were all good.

    Charles Mingus, NYC, 1972
    I don’t remember where this concert was held. Most of the show did not stand out, it was some kind of Jazz festival, but it was the only time I saw Mingus perform live, and he blew me away.

    Junior Wells, NYC, 1997
    I can’t believe it took me until 1997 to hear Junior Wells. I heard Buddy Guy many times, but I never heard them together. In 1997 Wells was old and unwell, but he was still one of the best, if not the best, blues singers and harmonica players of all time.

    I have not, for the most part, listed blues shows here because the entire list would be too long, but I think I have to mention at least one show at the Electric Circus on St Marks Place in 1969. I saw a number of shows there that summer, and they are somewhat mixed up in my mind. The players who stand out were Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, John Lee Hooker, and Willie Dixon. I think I may have seen them all on the same night, but I am not 100% sure. The show I am thinking of was wild – Spann was wearing the brightest pink suit I have ever seen. The music was really loose (in the best way) and live. I saw Otis Spann sometime later performing in a spotlight in a subdued dress suit. It wasn’t the same. The high point of the night for me was the Voices of East Harlem who sang Run Shaker Life and Let The Sunshine In while weaving through the Electric Circus. I supposed I could find the details of the show or shows online, but I think I’d rather keep my imperfect memory intact.

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