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Published on December 19, 2006 By Sean Conners aka SConn1 In Music
In 1979, I saw my 1st concert. I was 12 years old and got a ride (unknown to my parents) to go see Fleetwood Mac. It was great. From there, I have had the opportunity to see hundreds, if not thousands of different live bands, if you include the bars and clubs. Where every concert is different and sometimes it may be an "apples to oranges" comparison, here is my choices as the best 10 concerts I ever saw.

1) The Grateful Dead

I have seen The Dead and thier various solo projects around 100 times collectively, and every show is different, as all deadheads know. It's hard to pick 1 show that clearly stood out from another, but if someone put a gun to my head, I would probably say the run in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1987 was phenonmenal. Picking one night may be harder, but again, with gun in my ear, I would go with the 3rd and final night.

2) Bruce Springsteen

In 1984, I bought one of my best friends 2 tickets for Bruce's "Born In the USA" tour when it came to our town, Pittsburgh, Pa. The show was amazing, and long. He started at 8pm and did a little over an hour and took a break. SHortly before 10pm, they came back onstage and continued jamming till midnight. At midnight, in mid song, the band broke into a "happy birthday" song and the crowd sang along. Midnight ws Bruce's birthday, and the party continued till around 1:30am well after the house lights were up and Bruce had literally worn the crowd down. It was a great night.

3) Rush

This is a band that seems to get better on stage with age. Where their best albums may be behind them, each tour seems to find the Canadian power trio more comfortable and tighter onstage than last time. I've seen these guys almost a dozen times over the years, each one is special, but my favorite is the one I got in the front row for up at the Camden Waterfront (Tweeter Center) about 10 years back. Being in the front row is always so cool, isn't it?

4) Journey

In the Summer of 85, we were going to like a concert a week it seemed....And the summer started off with a show that was one of the most perfect stage shows I ever witnessed. Journey never missed a note all night, the light show was literally perfect for the music and they just played all those songs we know so well....so well. the show also had a special opening act, Bryan Adams, on his 1st major tour and just becoming familiar to the audience, he actually impressed the arena crowd so much that he got encored.

5) The Dead Kennedys

In a small bar called the Underground Railroad in Morgantown Wva. in the mid 80's I saw Jello Biafra absolutely dominate a stage and work a crowd like I never saw. It shall remain in my memory forever.

6) Phish

Phish was maligned as being a "dead-lite" act in the early 90's. After Garcia's death in 95, my wife and I went to Hershey Park in August, 1996 to check em out. A surreal day at the themepark that involved multitudes of hippies mingling with confused and sometimes naively frightened families climaxed that night with a great show. By the end of "Down With Disease" my mind had dismissed any thoughts of these guys being "a lite version" of anyone.

7) Ozzy Osborne

Ozzy has gotten worse onstage over the years. His last Ozzfest performance at the Tweeter Center was pathetic. He couldn't remember the words to "Suicide Solution" and looked like he had just rolled out of bed. Ozzy's shows have always been short, about the equivalent of a bar set. But in 1982, shortly before his death, I saw Randy Rhodes do things with a guitar I never saw before. Randy was amazing, Ozzy was the showman his legend suggests and i loved it all.

8) The Grand Ole Opry Radio Show

My last time in Nashville, a few years back, my wife and I stayed at the Opryland Hotel. One night, we did an "all nighter" when we went to the Opry and witnessed their all night show. We saw about a dozen acts, including emerging star Keith Urban playing solo. the whole night, the whole atmosphere was great, the performances stellar and the experience memorable. Also on that trip, we went to the Ryman one afternoon and were treated to a private performance with about a dozen others with Brad Paisley. he took requests, answered questions and interacted with us. It was easy to see that he was gonna be around country music as a major force for a long time to come.

9) Dire Straits

Before the internet and ticketmaster.com, one woud have to sleep out to get good seats to a hot show. We did that with Dire Straits in the 80's when they came to Pittsburgh. the day after, they performed at Live Aid and i knew the concert to come would be special, and it was. Mark Knoprler was amazing from my 5th row seat at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh. The band was tight and the 2+ hour show was highlight after highlight.

10) this may be the toughest spot in my list. I have no trouble with choosing the Dead as #1. Just the sheer number of times i saw them would justify giving them the top spot. But #10 is harder. A lot of bands not yet mentioned are worthy of the slot. The Allman Brothers and Blues traveler double bill was great. Speaking of double bills, so was Iron Maiden and Priest. And in metal shows, Ronnie james Dio and his dragons and lasers was truly a spectacle backed by great metal anthems. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, Dylan and Neil Young have impressed me with nothing more than themselves and thir instrument. Peter Gabriel was great as was Yes and other"progressive" rock acts like Triumph and such. Stepping away from arenas, i saw punk bands like Husker Du, the Cynics and even some local bands like The Clarks that were great live bands. Recently, I saw a band I don't even like very much in System of a Down and was way impressed. Then there were "future stars" that i got to see in bars before they were big like Metallica, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM.

But in the end, I am going to give the slot to someone I saw for free. Someone who died way before his time but left behind some great music. Michael Hedges. I saw him at a free concert where he was a last minute substitute for a canceling Phoebe Snow (that i wasn't planning to see, lol). He got onstage with just himself and his acoustic guitarand a special, custom built "harp guitar" that he played so virtuosly that i don't think i have ever since been so impressed by one man playing music since.

Like I suggested before, there are many other shows I could have mentioned. But these ten are truly special in my memory. they all influenced me in one way or another and I shall be forever grateful that I payed the admission price or just showed up to see the show.

Comments
on Dec 19, 2006
I still have a lot of old ticket stubs. Not all of them have the date.

A local radio station here used to have shows with several different groups. I saw The Grassroots, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Badfinger in one show.

Then there was the Guess Who.

Then:
Johnny Winter, Dec. 5, 1974
Edgar Winter, May 6, 1974
Emerson, Lake and Palmer twice. One on June 23, 1977
The Who, Nov. 25, 1975
Yes twice. First with Wakeman, then with Moraz.
Deep Purple twice. First with Gillan and Glover, then (March 11, 1974)with Coverdale and Huges.
Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group, July 16, 1976
The Doobie Brothers, April 29, 1974
Led Zeppelin, May 4, 1973
Kansas, Feb. 15, 1977
America, Oct. 30, 1974

There was also one show with Bloodrock, It's a Beautiful Day and Cold Blood.

on Dec 19, 2006
I would put Farm Aid, 2001 as my all time best concert. It was great to start out with, but it was almost 3 weeks after September 11, and midway through the concert, Neil Young brought out a firefighter who had been at Ground Zero every day since. That was also the most expensive concert ticket I ever bought, but it was well worth it.

Second, just because of the rarity of seeing them in the US, was Midnight Oil, with Hothouse Flowers and Ziggy Marley at the WOMAD theater outside of Chicago, summer 1993. I almost got a chance to see Midnight Oil a second time, when they were scheduled to tour with INXS and Men at Work. That tour was cancelled, but I had the tickets. I HAD 'em, man!!!!

For number three, I gotta go with ya on Rush. Roll the Bones tour, 1993. I had great seats, close enough to see Geddy's nose hair (lol!)

#4, easy. Weird Al. Got to meet Al and the guys backstage after, and I have to tell you, they're a great group of guys.

#5, Femmes, Milwaukee. Need I say more?

#6, The Guess Who. Well past their prime, but a very good show.

#7 (oddly enough) Wang Chung and the Fixx. Now, I'm partial to 80's music, and unapologetic about it, but this was a great show by anyone's standards. Wang Chung was everything you'd expect out of them...total 80's schlock, but you know every word, but the Fixx absolutely brought the house down.

#8. A music festival in North Carolina called Smilefest. A total hippie "thang". Having to pick a night, I'd have to go with the Saturday night. Bela Fleck was absolutely incredible.

#9. Arlo Guthrie, Grand Opera House, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Arlo would rank higher, but he didn't do "Alice's Restaurant" that night, and while it's still top ten, it could have been greater with the addition of that song.

#10 is for me, like you, a toughie, but I have to go with the Woody Guthrie Tribute this past October. Because it's the only one of the ten I PLAYED in, and that made it extra special. I got to perform two of Woody's songs at our Friday night jam session (I went with "Roll on, Columbia", and "So Long, It's Been Good Ta Know Ya"), and then after playing my tunes, I sat back and watched. Sometimes, it's fun to be a spectator, especially when you have tons of talent around you.

on Dec 20, 2006
thanks for the comments guys....a couple of notes...

gideon...
i saw the femmes, great bar band (saw em in a bar)
smilefest is a good time and bela fleck is incredible
i saw arlo guthrie at the same free place i saw michael hedges,,,about 20 years ago...he played alice's resturaunt, which is a rarity at his shows.
the woody tribute would have been fun to play in...i personally excluded some shows i played at or sat in on, but yeah, it would have been an honor.

icon...
quite a list...i guess your hayday was the mid 70's?

Johnny Winter, Dec. 5, 1974
Edgar Winter, May 6, 1974 ...which one didn't like to be touched and had it as a rider in his contract? i think it was johnny. they are both fine blues players in my book
Emerson, Lake and Palmer twice. One on June 23, 1977..."welcome to the show my friends..." i never saw em, but admire em greatly as musicians
The Who, Nov. 25, 1975...if i were to see the who, this is the era i would have wanted to see em i think...today, on their umpteenth "comeback" tour, i have no interest.
Yes twice. First with Wakeman, then with Moraz. ...i saw em on the 90125 tour, so no steve howe...we got seats right next to the stage. back in those days, before "CAD" and so forth, they always had to overestimate the area for the stage and whatnot....so for even sold out shows, the day of the show they would release a few hundred great seats right next to the stage. that's when we were doin "a concert a week" and went and saw bands thatwe didn't even like a whole lot cause it was cheap back then too (10-15 bucks a ticket for major shows)
Deep Purple twice. First with Gillan and Glover, then (March 11, 1974)with Coverdale and Huges.
Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group, July 16, 1976 ....jeff beck is an amazing guitarist, that would have been nice.
The Doobie Brothers, April 29, 1974 ...i saw them on one of their "comeback " tours on a bill with several old bands...i'm sure you got a better show
Led Zeppelin, May 4, 1973...close as i ever came to seeing zeppelin was seeing page in the late 80's solo, page / plant in the 90's
Kansas, Feb. 15, 1977 ...my sister's 1st concert. she still talks about it.
America, Oct. 30, 1974 ...always loved their harmonies,,,if they pulled em off live, that would have been cool.

again,,thanks for the comments:)


on Dec 20, 2006
icon...
quite a list...i guess your hayday was the mid 70's?


That was the heyday of all those bands.

which one didn't like to be touched and had it as a rider in his contract? i think it was johnny.


I'm not sure if I ever heard that.

if i were to see the who, this is the era i would have wanted to see em i think...today, on their umpteenth "comeback" tour, i have no interest.


The worst only from my perspective (and everyone else's, I suppose who had to sit behind the stage.) We weren't very close to it, either. Once in a while Moon would turn around on his drum stool and wave. Their new album has been called their best since "Quadrophenia."

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