Some people like film. Other people like fine art. I like concerts. There’s something about the live music experience that is pure magic. It doesn’t even really matter if the band is good or bad – as long as they’re playing rock and roll and they’re putting their hearts into it.
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of shows. I always catch my favorites when they hit New England and I try to see as many of the “legends” as I can. So here’s my list of Top 10 concerts. To avoid the inevitable Black Crowes clutter, I’ve actually made two lists: my top 10 concerts and my top 10 Black Crowes concerts. After my picks, old friend Kenny B has graciously provided his list as well.
Mitch’s Top 10 Concerts (in chronological order)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Great Woods, Mansfield, MA 9/20/1986
It was my first real boy concert (I had previously seen John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band at Six Flags/Great Adventure – they were pretty awesome and I stayed for the late show, by the way) and Neil truly delivered. We walked in during “Like a Hurricane” and for the next two hours the band literally blew us away. (Get it? Hurricane = blew away. Ha!)
Grateful Dead, Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA 4/8/1988
My first Dead show and the only one while Brent was still alive. In retrospect the show itself was good not great (Jerry’s voice was rough, but no complaints about the “Jack Straw” opener and “Black Muddy River” encore), but it was still an amazing experience for a 16 year old. My parents made me attend a USY sleepover trip to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” in exchange for seeing the Dead. Do you want to guess which show was more fun? (Listen to the show here!)
Hall & Oates, Palace Theatre, Albany, NY 2/14/1991
My college girlfriend and I had our first “official” date on Valentine’s Day at an amazing acoustic performance by the underappreciated duo from Philly. I guess it worked – we’re still together 18+ years later. Daryl & John strike again!
R.E.M., Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY 6/20/1995
It was the perfect timing to see R.E.M. live, as they were supporting their excellent rock album Monster and Billy Berry was still in the band. I’m not sure if I need to see them again, but we really dug that show.
The Artist (Prince), FleetCenter, Boston, MA 7/25/1997
Say what you will about Prince, but he is an incredible performer. He sang, he danced, he shredded and he threw a hell of a party. The only thing missing was Morris Day.
Tom Waits, Orpheum Theatre, Boston, 9/21/1999
It was a dream come true: one of my favorite artists – who rarely tours – hit Boston and took us on a trip through his fertile imagination. I’m not even sure if it was a concert – it was more like musical performance art. He was part carnival barker, part spoken word poet, part musician and altogether amazing. I’d go see Tom again anywhere, anytime.
Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes, Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA 10/16/1999
I couldn’t believe the news when I heard that my favorite band would be playing a Led Zeppelin show with Pagey himself. It was an incredible experience, capped off with a sit-in by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. I still can’t believe this show happened. If you don’t own a copy of Live at the Greek (the double CD from the show in LA), then you’re missing out on one of the best collaborations in music history.
Phil Lesh & Friends featuring Chris Robinson, Agannis Arena, Boston, MA 12/1/2005
When C-Rob first hooked up with Phil for the 3 show cycle in December of 2004 I knew it was an inspired pairing – Robinson’s singing, harp playing and stage presence plus Phil’s musical genius and the Dead songbook – how could you beat that combination? This is probably my #1 show of all time. The Dolphins! Ruben & Cherise! (Listen to the show here!)
Boz Scaggs, Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA 8/17/2006
My wife and I were so excited to see Boz for the first time that we brought the ruckus to the Pavilion that night. The septuagenarians wanted to chill out, but our section ended up rocking out - thanks to us (until security intervened) You know that Slim appreciated the energy, though. (Review)
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA 2/21/2009
Boy, I wish I got on board with the Cardinals earlier. At least we were able to catch their last show in Boston before Ryan’s retirement. Adams and Neal Casal in the same band, playing their inspired brand of jammy country-rock, is a special thing indeed. (Listen to the show here!) (Review)
Mitch’s Top 10 Black Crowes Concerts (in chronological order)
Saratoga Winners, Cohoes, NY, 11/29/1990
We both loved Shake Your Money Maker, so when Longhair and I heard that the Crowes were playing a tiny barn just north of Albany we had to make the trip. They were young, sloppy and playing off of a small setlist, but it was obvious that they had the chops. I can still remember details of the show vividly almost 20 years later.
Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY, 2/5/1991
Opening up for ZZ Top (before they got kicked off the tour) it was great to see how much the Crowes had progressed in just 3 short months. I remember hearing the long “Shake ‘Em On Down”>”Get Back” jam and thinking that they were definitely starting to stretch things out. ZZ Top, while solid and professional, seemed a little too slick by comparison. I think I still have a bad VHS copy of this show somewhere.
H.O.R.D.E., SPAC, Saratoga, NY 8/13/1995
When the Crowes were headlining H.O.R.D.E. at SPAC, just four days after Jerry died, they were a very different band than they were in the early ‘90s. They achieved lift-off on “My Morning Song”. It was transcendent. They were playing on another level. No other band at that festival could even come close to them.
Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA 10/26/1996
There were a lot of shows for us at the good old Orpheum and 10/26/96 was a real barn-burner, full of treats from 3 Snakes. If you were there, you’ll remember the crazy energy in that room. They were peaking and the loyal Amoricans were happy to go along for the ride. Triple encore!
Furthur Festival, Great Woods, Mansfield, MA, 7/1/1997
It was a long day in the sun at Furthur. There was a lot of acoustic rock in the afternoon (Bob/Rob RatDog, Arlo Guthrie) and by the time the Crowes hit the stage late it was like a slap in the face. They played a blistering hour-long set, with lots of bluesy nuggets like “Shake Your Money Maker”, “Spider in the Sugar Bowl Blues” and “Crow Black Chicken”, plus amazing originals like “Wiser”>”Ballad”, “How Much for Your Wings?” and “Another Roadside Tragedy”, plus a cover of Keef’s “Happy”. This show clearly illustrated the divide between the Deadheads and the Amoricans (the Crowes were far too heavy for many of the ‘heads) but by the time the night ended, with the all-star jam on “Not Fade Away” and “Knockin’ on Heavens Door”, we were all joined together, grinnin’ and spent. (Note: this marathon show is why my wife doesn’t do hippie festivals anymore!)
Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA 2/23/1999
While the Audley Freed era isn’t my favorite Crowes period, there’s still plenty of good music to be found under that sweet ‘fro. This show was our last before we had kids and the Crowes went on hiatus. We were treated to a first-time “(Only) Halfway to Everywhere” and a loud, fast, fun show that delivered a “No Speak, No Slave” prior to a triple encore. Plus, we were practically sitting on the stage for this one.
Hammerstein Ballroom, NY, NY 3/26/2005
When the reunion was announced I immediately bought tickets, not “realizing” that the show was in NYC the night before Easter. Good thing that I’m a Jew and my wife is sweet on me. I could have died happily when “Cursed Diamond” kicked off the show. The only black mark was that this show occured before Gorman came back. I always knew that Gorman was a great drummer, but I didn’t realize just how important he was to the band until he wasn’t there. Never leave us again, Steve!
Somerville Theatre, Somerville, MA 3/5/2008
After they announced the one-night only Warpaint launch shows I knew that I wanted to go in blind. What an experience it was to hear their first new album in 7 years live in a movie theater! Sure, we had to get single tickets, but it was well worth it. In addition to hearing the excellent Warpaint tunes, we were treated to a few nice covers, including a perfect rendition of Clapton’s “Don’t Know Why”. (Review)
The Opera House, Boston, MA 10/17/2008
This was the show where Luther Dickinson really won me over. Beautiful venue, great setlist, everything was perfect. Just a perfect, perfect show. That “Bring On, Bring On” was astoundingly beautiful. It was another great night in Boston. (Review)
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA 8/27/09
The tour to support Before the Frost….Until the Freeze started a few days before the record was released, so again I got the opportunity to hear a bunch of new tunes played live for the first time. And as much as I love the new material, it was the kick-ass version of “Sometimes Salvation” that sent me home with a big smile. (Review)
Kenny B’s Top 10 Concerts (in descending order from #10 to #1)
Jackson Browne, Sedona, AZ 10/5/1996 (solo, benefit for Native American School)
This was just one of those spectacular fall days in Arizona and the music was a perfect complement to the red rocks that surrounded the stage. It could have been Raffi playing “The Wheels on the Bus” and it still would have been a great day.
Rolling Stones, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA 10/21/1994 (Voodoo Lounge tour)
Seeing the Stones live had been a dream of mine since I was 13 and I started listening to Beggar’s Banquet on my friend’s father’s turntable. They were great. Mick’s voice was above average, but it was their energy that really made the show great.
Grateful Dead, Compton Terrace, Chandler, AZ 12/5/1992
I hate to repeat praise, but outdoor, afternoon concerts in Arizona (unless it happens to be between March 1 and September 30) are just spectacular. This one featured the completely unexpected “Here Comes Sunshine” which hadn’t been played since 1974 and a guy in a big, yellow ultralight (those little flying mopeds) circling overhead. Bobby said “Jerry says it looks like a Texas dragonfly.” Why Jerry couldn’t have told us that himself remains a mystery…well, probably not such a mystery when you think about it. (Listen to the show here!)
Eric Clapton, America West Arena, Phoenix, AZ 3/11/1994 (From the Cradle tour)
This was Clapton in his comfort zone. White painters pants and a white t-shirt blowing everyone away with old school blues.
Neil Young, Desert Sky Pavillion, Phoenix, AZ 9/27/1992 (solo tour)
I love acoustic Neil Young! Okay, I’m pretty much a fan of all things Neil Young (except that disastrous Shocking Pinks album), I even like the album he did with the Blue Notes and no one liked that one (based on the things people were yelling at him when he ended his show at Great Woods in the summer in 1989.) Give me Neil acoustic anytime. He was phenomenal. I am usually not a fan of the pavilion shows (Tweeter Center…er, Comcast Center) but I had third row seats, so I had that going for me too, which is nice.
U2, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ 10/24/1992
This concert happened to also be my first date with a lovely young lady I had been looking to court for some time, and who naturally dumped me a couple months later. But like the romances of my early twenties, my relationship with U2 was equally as fleeting. I loved the show, I liked the girl. When we were together, it was magical. After a couple of months the newness wore off and I’ve never seen either one of them again. But it was fun while it lasted and it was a time I’ll never forget.
Aerosmith, Compton Terrace, Chandler, AZ 7/29/1993 (Get a Grip tour)
I saw Aerosmith only twice, but I’ve heard lots of live stuff from them. I’ve never heard Tyler sound like he did this night though. He hit every single high note and scream with precision and authority. And the boys rocked it hard. It was, as previously mentioned however, July in Arizona so was just a tad on the warm side. And don’t give me that “it’s a dry heat” crap. Stick your face in a hot oven for about two hours. That’s dry too!
Grateful Dead, Silverbowl, Las Vegas, NV 5/29/1992 (Steve Miller opened)
A great “1/2 Step” to open the show and a solid first set. Just as the second set was opening to a great “China/Rider” the sky behind the stage began to turn into one of those crazy summer storms that you only see in those touristy pamphlets you find at rest stops. As the first few notes of “Looks Like Rain” began, the thunder began to quietly roll and a couple of lightning bolts crashed down way off in the distance. And just when Bobby starts screaming “I can’t stand the rain! I can’t stand it no!” as Jerry’s guitar poured the raindrops down, the thunder became louder and the lightning was brighter. Some claim it was Mickey playing around on the percussion, some claim it was God. I don’t know which is true, but it was awesome! (Listen to the show here!)
Pearl Jam, Mesa Amphitheater, Mesa, AZ 11/7/1992
It took me a while to accept grunge. I thought Kurt Cobain was a punk and that his angst was just a gimmick. But when Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten, came out I loved it. It wasn’t my crowd, I was more attracted to a Dead show than the mosh pit scene, but I still had to see these guys. They did not disappoint! Everyone in the band is a great musician on his own, but it was Vedder’s voice that absolutely captivated. His emotions were real – you could feel it in every note. The crowd favorite “Black” was the highest of the highlights. As a side note, I then went back to listen a little more closely at Nirvana and began to appreciate them a little more. Pearl Jam was still #1, but Nirvana was okay in my book too. Cobain later proved that my theory about his gimmicky angst was very, very wrong. RIP, Kurt.
Jerry Garcia Band, Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA 1/14/1995
I had gone up to San Francisco with a couple of friends for 3-nights of Jerry at the Warfield. The Friday night show (1/13/95) was good with a couple of highlights. Actually, the whole weekend was good with a couple of highlights each night. But the crown jewel of the run came to open the second set on Saturday night. A 27-minute version of “Shining Star” (the 70’s hit by The Manhattans). Somewhere in the middle Jerry was just leading the crowd with a quick note on the guitar every bar or so as we all sang to him “You are my shining star, don’t you go away! I want to be right here where you are, till my dying day!” In hindsight, it seems sort of prophetic.
So what are your personal favorite shows? Please feel free to share them in the comments.