Live Music: What Are Your 5 Most Unforgettable Concerts?

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The other day, on the recommendation of FitzTheRuke, I watched the excellent Netflix miniseries Brand New Cherry Flavor. While the first piece of music in it is diegetic - the always evocative Phil Collins* and Another Day in Paradise, it was the second piece of music that really got to me. The title track for the first episode....

*Yeah, he killed a guy. Or watched a guy die. Something like that ..... MIAMI VICE 4EVA!

...Natural One, by Folk Implosion. There are few songs that open like that, and few songs that immediately capture a time and a place. Part of it is that instant '95-'96 vibe when the song was on the radio (at least, in certain places). But part of it is that the song was already indelibly associated with another movie- the very controversial Kids. And when I was hearing that, I immediately thought, "Hey, how could they use that song that is already so strongly associated with another movie and scene ... with this?" But then I remembered ... Kids was in 1995. That's (mathing now) 26 years ago. Which means that the song is probably relatively undiscovered for a large part of the Brand New Cherry Flavor audience. I was going to write something about the recycling of iconic soundtrack music (Where is my mind? by the Pixies, for example), but instead I thought I'd throw out a general, more fun question that this made me think about:

What are your five most unforgettable concerts?

Rules: THERE ARE NONE! HA! Didn't see that coming, did you? Seriously, pick whatever you want. Particular date. Or band. And it could be unforgettable for good reasons or bad reasons.

The world is your oyster.

To get it started-

1. 1995 or 1996 Folk Implosion
Quick story- Folk Implosion (the band) was a side project of Lou Barlow (Sebadoah). I don't think that they were planning on making it big. Anyway, I saw them at a festival and was incredibly excited to see them perform live! Except ... they clearly hadn't performed much (if at all) together. It was ... terrible. Calling it a shambolic mess does a disservice to other terrible bands. I don't think most non-musicians will realize how bad a band that hasn't played their music together will be ... until they see it happen. It was terrible, but for all the wrong reasons.

2. Green Day (Boston Esplanade)
They had a concert series in Boston, wherein they would invite these little-known bands to come perform during the summer and you could see them for free. If you were lucky, the headliner for the whole summer might be a band like They Might Be Giants. Anyway, back in 1994 the City had booked this unknown band out of California .... Green Day ... to play the Hatch Shell in September. My understanding is that between when they were booked, and the concert, their album (Dookie) became the biggest thing in the world. So that night in September, you had tens and tens of thousands of people crushing into a place that couldn't handle them. Inexplicably, Green Day was allowed to start playing, and then the concert ended.

...and that's when the rioting started. Good times!

3. Reverend Horton Heat
I have seen the Good Reverend (and Jimbo) perform live every time I can and they are within a day's travel. I have yet to be disappointed.

4. Ministry
I have seen Ministry (Al Jourgensen) perform multiple times. Once, I was nearly crushed to death in a mosh pit. Once, the crowd lit an entire wall on fire. Never a dull moment.

5. Tom Petty
I was almost going to put in Neil Young here, but Tom Petty was, quite simply, the single best performance. I still get shudders thinking about it.


So I guess I need either a riot or arson for a memorable concert at this point?

What about you- what are your five most unforgettable concerts?
 

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Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I'll bite!

1995: Live. This was on the Throwing Copper tour, and they were booked to play the college campus near my high school. It was my first "real" concert, and it was amazing; even songs I didn't care for on the album were absolutely transcendent live. Maybe that's where the band's name came from.

2003: KMFDM. I actually saw them in both 2002 and 2003, but the 2003 show in Boston was better because I had a chance to chat with Pig after the show. He was funny and friendly, and even though the rest of the band wasn't there for the chat (Pig said they were feeling ill), the conversation reflected very well on the band IMO.

2004: The Cure. This was their "Curiosa Festival," so in addition to the Cure's own show (in which they played a song not available on the US version of their then-current album, which pushed them past curfew), I was introduced to awesome acts like Muse and Mogwai and Melissa Auf Der Maur's band. It was great!

2009: BB King. With Buddy Guy, and it was a show like no other.

1990-ish: Jon Gailmor. When I was a kid, I'd spend summers with my great-grandmother in Woodstock, VT, and on several of those summers the folk singer Jon Gailmor performed on the village green. He's an amazing talent, and those summer evening shows etched their way into my young mind like no others could.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'll bite!

1995: Live. This was on the Throwing Copper tour, and they were booked to play the college campus near my high school. It was my first "real" concert, and it was amazing; even songs I didn't care for on the album were absolutely transcendent live.

One thing I think is always true is that for almost any great performer, seeing them live will be such a better experience than just hearing their songs.

I was fortunate to see Bruno Mars fairly recently, and ... wow. Whether you love his music, or aren't familiar with it ... he is absolutely electric in-person in a way that no recording can do justice to.

It's fairly rare that I've seen artists that just sucked live-
Folk Implosion
Elliot Smith (there ... may have been other things going on)
De La Soul (they did not want to be there, and made it evident)

Instead, I usually have the opposite reaction- just amazed at how good they are.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Natural One, by Folk Implosion. There are few songs that open like that, and few songs that immediately capture a time and a place.
Well. It's going to be a while before I get that bass line out of my head.

Pink Floyd, 1994-ish
I had been obsessing on Floyd for almost a decade at that point, to the point that my grandfather's funeral was a week before the concert, and I would have missed the funeral had the timing been a little different. I spent the first half blissed out (not high--I was also straight-edge) with tears running down my face.

We Were Promised Jetpacks
I saw these guys a couple-three times, and every time they did "Sore Thumb" I got shivers.

Nine Inch Nails, 1994-ish
Touring behind The Downward Spiral. The arena was struck by lightning during their soundcheck, and everything was delayed and probably at least a little fritzed, and Trent Reznor was pissed and you could tell, and he channeled it into some awesome screaming and the destruction of several thousand dollars' worth of musical equipment.

Also
I saw the tour Nine Inch Nails co-headlined with David Bowie. That was awesome.

Fugazi
Only saw them three times, which barely makes sense. I'm pretty sure they didn't have setlists, because I'm also pretty sure they responded to what people were yelling. At least, Ian yelled back when people requested Minor Threat songs ...
 

Gosh it's been so long since I've been to a show!

Michael Jackson (1988): my mom took me and we snuck down to a lower level. I was 7
David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails (1996 or 1997)
Radiohead and Low (2004): open air concert overlooking florence
Lightning Bolt (multiple times, various warehouses and tiny clubs, early 2000s)
Vashti Bunyan (2006)

edit: biggest regret -- never saw Prince live
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
1: Scott Bradley's Postmodern Jukebox
The first time I saw them, was at a small venue in Gothenburg, called Nefertiti (used to be a jazz-club, but has nogone into bancruptcy afaik). Was fully packed. I stood 10 meters from the scene... Best concert I ever been to. One of the singers was Morgan James, and damn that girl can sing. They did Hosier's song "Take me to Church". Was only her and Scott Bradly on scene at that time, him playing the piano, and when she went all in in the chorus, it sends chills down my spine due to how good she was. The rest of the band was awesome as well. Ariana Savalas played up the role of the seductive nightclub singer to the max.

2: Hawai'ian Style Band
Saw them at a small concert at a place called Moose Mcgillicuddy (or something like that) when I studied at the university of Hawai'i at Manoa back in 1994. Can't remember if I knew in advance that there would be a concert or not. Bought the CD Vanishing Treasures from the band afterwards, and it is still one of my favourite albums.

3: Niagara
The French duo that used to have these videos filled with absolutely vibrant colours, back when MTV actually played music videos. Saw them in the early 90s in Gothenburg. Can't remember if this was after their 3rd or 4rth (and last) album. Was very nice to see though. The ticket was hard to get, and then trying to find the place where they played..

4: Welle: Erdball
Saw (and heard) them for the first time at the Swedish Electronic Music Awards in Gothenburg. Was the mid 90's. They play hard blippy things on analogue synths. Even uses a Commodore 64 as an instrument. They were so fun to see. Have seen them afterwards as well. Always fun to watch.

5: Borås Symfoniska Orkester + Divine
The local symphonic orchestra together with 3 lovely sopranos. They were absolutely wonderful to see. The girls embodied "Look at how fun we have on stage", as they flirted with the audience, and the musicians. I bought their CD, because they were so fun. Have seen the Orchestra play a number of times and in all shows except one they have been absolutely wonderful, so I know how good they are. The one where they were bad were when the singer Malena Ernman was on stage. She is supposed to be this really skilled opera singer, but damn, she was so boring to watch. It was all "Look at how technically skilled I am", so she made the orchestra look bad. And this was after she had been in the Eurovision with "La voix" back in 2009.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Well. It's going to be a while before I get that bass line out of my head.

Pink Floyd, 1994-ish
I had been obsessing on Floyd for almost a decade at that point, to the point that my grandfather's funeral was a week before the concert, and I would have missed the funeral had the timing been a little different. I spent the first half blissed out (not high--I was also straight-edge) with tears running down my face.

...I saw that tour. That was awesome. Do you remember the giant disco ball in the middle?

Um, I was also blissed out. I plead the fifth on the rest.

Nine Inch Nails, 1994-ish
Touring behind The Downward Spiral. The arena was struck by lightning during their soundcheck, and everything was delayed and probably at least a little fritzed, and Trent Reznor was pissed and you could tell, and he channeled it into some awesome screaming and the destruction of several thousand dollars' worth of musical equipment.

I've seen NIN a few times, but I still remember his tour with Bowie (kinja'd by @Malmuria and by you below!).

True story- when Bowie did The Man Who Sold the World the person next to me said, "Wow, a Nirvana cover!"

Also
I saw the tour Nine Inch Nails co-headlined with David Bowie. That was awesome.

Fugazi
Only saw them three times, which barely makes sense. I'm pretty sure they didn't have setlists, because I'm also pretty sure they responded to what people were yelling. At least, Ian yelled back when people requested Minor Threat songs ...

Fugazi is awesome, but you know you're getting old when you're like, "Boy, do you know what's awesome? The book tour that Glenn Friedman and Guy Picciotto did. That was some hardcore and intense Q&A!"
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
For me it's these 5 in no particular order.

1) Metallica and Guns N Roses. It was the year that James Hetfield was burned by fireworks at a concert. He had been unable to play and still wasn't supposed to at the concert, but he said screw it(other language actually used) and asked for his guitar. It was awesome.

2) Bon Jovi around 1988 or 89. They played a full concert and then came back and did about 8 more encore songs. Almost another concert. Then after that the first two rows of the venue were filled with musicians from other bands. He pulled them all up on stage along with Sam Kinison and they all sang Wild Thing. THEN, I kid you not, they had a grand piano wheeled out onto the stage and Lionel Richie came out and played a song. It was fantastic.

3) Iron Maiden, 7th Son tour. Not only was the music phenomenal, but the sets they used were visually stunning.

4) Michael Jackson, Smooth Criminal tour(before most of the stuff with kids). We had 13th row seats and he also knew how to put out stunning sets and give an amazing performance.

5) Rolling Stones and Guns N Roses, because.............Rolling Stones.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
...I saw that tour. That was awesome. Do you remember the giant disco ball in the middle?
Who could forget it (barring ... recreational pharmaceuticals)? During the most famous guitar solo in their catalog, a huge mirror ball rises in the middle of the audience (IIRC somewhere in the vicinity of the front-of-house board) with lights dancing across its surface. Then, it opens up and light dances across the crowd.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Who could forget it (barring ... recreational pharmaceuticals)? During the most famous guitar solo in their catalog, a huge mirror ball rises in the middle of the audience (IIRC somewhere in the vicinity of the front-of-house board) with lights dancing across its surface. Then, it opens up and light dances across the crowd.

Well ... just checking. I mean ... you know the old saying, right?

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is ... a giant disco ball.
 

payn

Legend
I'm going with top 5 Experiences now and will likely do a top 5 performances later.

1. INXS opening for Depeche Mode at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Probably not my first concert, but for sure my first venue/stadium show. Was a young lad whose mate had a cool uncle that worked as an EMT during concerts. He took us and we got free reign while he manned his station. Probably not the best concert I've been too, but it was my first and opened a whole new world to me. A great time even though the HHH metrodome was a notoriously crappy place to see a concert. A crappy place to see anything really.

2. Meat Puppets at First Avenue
This was a 21+ show I got into with a fake ID. First Ave is a legandary experience it self. (purple rain...purple rain...) Closest I ever got to ever seeing Nirvana. These guys are a legend themselves and really helped form the eclectic taste in music I have today. I don't know what lese to say? It was like a religious experience...

3. The Replacements in some field near Atlanta Station Georgia.
My buddy hit me up with an email about a festival called Shaky Knees down in Georgia. It was like 100 bands for 150 bucks. The list was incredible with The National and Alabama Shakes were headliners. There was a spot marked "TBD" on the list long after we already purchased our tickets. Turned out to be The Replacements, or well two of the members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson (special guest Billy Joe from Greenday on rhythm guitar). Not only are The Replacements a local legend, but they had the true embodiment of Punk. Its not a particular sound or look, its an attitude, a way of life really. I so wished I could have seen one of their punk shows where the crowd was in spiked collars and mohawks eagerly waiting for a wailing set. Then, the 'mats break into a cover of Hey Good lookin by Hank Williams. The 'mats were on their best behavior (a few weeks before at Coachella, Paul Westerberg said he was "too tired to sing" and had Billy Joe sing instead. Critics did not find this classic 'mats move entertaining lol) and hit all the best tunes by the numbers and during a rain storm none the less. Kids didnt know who the hell these guys were but by the second song it didnt matter. The 'mats are not generational. The only thing better would have been to see Chris Mars on the drum kit dressed as "pappy the clown".

If you want to learn more about the 80s post punk scene and one of its most iconic acts, check out Trouble Boys by Bob Mehr. Soon to be a major motion picture! (Isn't it strange to call a movie a motion picture after 1940? Just a pretentious way to sell books I suppose. I mean, you dont see stickers on cars at the auto lot that say, "now a major horseless carriage!")

4. Arcade Fire at the Target Center
This was the Reflektor tour back in 2014 ish. The band requested folks wear formal attire for the concert. I'd say about 2/3 of folks (including myself) showed up dressed to the nines. The crowd went nuts when they covered Prince's Controversy. Great band, total professionals rocked the joint and classed it up making this a top 5 experience.

5. Dave Matthews Band opening for Big Head Todd and the Monsters at The Roy Wilkins Auditorium.
This was another concert my mate's uncle got us into. Big Head Todd was dad rock before I even knew that was a thing. My old man liked the band so I decided it was a good option. Some unknown guy named Dave Matthews opened. God, they rocked it so hard! I mean this band was fricken hungry. The fiddle guy wrecked at least three bows that night. Everybody was spent by the time Todd got on stage. I kinda felt bad for them.

5.a I saw Dave Matthews about 4 years later at the Target Center.
A few of my mates had never seen him. At this point it was all teenage girls and college dude-bros attending the show. The band gets started and they pulled out fricken barstools... Most boring set i've ever seen in my life. I swore id not seen DMB again if I could help it. So disappointing to see the fire out of this band.

5.b Dave Matthews Solo acoustic at Target Center
So fast forward about 20 years and Im a corpo drone working for Target. Every September we have a big fall rally. They book up the Target center and bring in Target exclusive acts. Its pretty fun sometimes you get to see some great folks like Beck. Other times you see kids like Shawn Mendez who cant play guitar. A couple years ago we got Dave Matthews solo and it was amazing. The place just sat quietly mesmerized as he played his set. Decades of experience just oozing out into our ears. It was fantastic and I had to review my take on old DMB.
 
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payn

Legend
Radiohead and Low (2004): open air concert overlooking florence
Low is a semi-local band and I love those folks! About 5-10 years ago they did a local out door venue here in Minneapolis. All they did was play a low bearing droning for like 45 min. Like they where making an ambient sound record. I was curious if they were doing a sound check or what? At the end, Alan Sparhawk walks to the mic and says, "drone...not drones" and left. The crowd took it differently depending on who you asked.

Speaking of Sparhawk, he has a side project called Black Eyed Snakes that is a must see. I think they only play the mid-west every few years but thats some great blues rock right there. Very different than what you usually get from Low.
edit: biggest regret -- never saw Prince live
Yeah, Prince makes my best performance list. Prince was something else.
 


Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
One thing I think is always true is that for almost any great performer, seeing them live will be such a better experience than just hearing their songs.

I was fortunate to see Bruno Mars fairly recently, and ... wow. Whether you love his music, or aren't familiar with it ... he is absolutely electric in-person in a way that no recording can do justice to.

It's fairly rare that I've seen artists that just sucked live-
Folk Implosion
Elliot Smith (there ... may have been other things going on)
De La Soul (they did not want to be there, and made it evident)

Instead, I usually have the opposite reaction- just amazed at how good they are.
That's been my experience as well. I saw George Michael and he was amazing, Robbie Williams was great, Nine Inch Nails, Pixies, Bella Morte, Lourdes - all off them were even better live. Oh, and of course also James Brown.

I'd love to see Green Day; they normally play a college near me and I was looking forward to taking my kid. But then instead of that they decided to do the package tour with Weezer and whoever that other band is, so I guess we will have to wait until next time.
 

In no particular order:
  1. Bauhaus - They had been past tense for so long, when they got back together to tour with NIN, it was the concert I never thought I'd see, and one of the greatest performances I've ever seen. Even in daylight at an arena.
  2. Skinny Puppy - I'd spent many years watching and rewatching Ain't it Dead Yet, wearing out the VHS tape. Dwayne Goettel had been dead for about a decade, so I thought that was it for them. But somehow a new album and a tour came to be and actually hit my city.
  3. Rhapsody of Fire - This band's music is so stirring and epic, and was even moreso in person.
  4. Das Ich - An obscure German band, and a major influence on my own music, my old band was supposed to open for them in the 90s, only for them to get lost and miss the show. A decade or so later, I finally got to see them perform in the flesh; I can say that I rarely wig out at concerts, but I was definitely wigging out.
  5. Grind - No one else is likely to heard of this Industrial trio from Pennsylvania. But they were probably the first band I ever saw live, and definitely the first Industrial band I ever saw. Crumbling, distorted, nihilistic, and despairing. Somewhere I still have their cassette. It wasn't all that long after seeing them that my first band came together.
Missing the NIN-David Bowie tour is one of my great regrets, absolutely.
 


Ulfgeir

Hero
In no particular order:
  1. Bauhaus - They had been past tense for so long, when they got back together to tour with NIN, it was the concert I never thought I'd see, and one of the greatest performances I've ever seen. Even in daylight at an arena.
  2. Skinny Puppy - I'd spent many years watching and rewatching Ain't it Dead Yet, wearing out the VHS tape. Dwayne Goettel had been dead for about a decade, so I thought that was it for them. But somehow a new album and a tour came to be and actually hit my city.
  3. Rhapsody of Fire - This band's music is so stirring and epic, and was even moreso in person.
  4. Das Ich - An obscure German band, and a major influence on my own music, my old band was supposed to open for them in the 90s, only for them to get lost and miss the show. A decade or so later, I finally got to see them perform in the flesh; I can say that I rarely wig out at concerts, but I was definitely wigging out.
  5. Grind - No one else is likely to heard of this Industrial trio from Pennsylvania. But they were probably the first band I ever saw live, and definitely the first Industrial band I ever saw. Crumbling, distorted, nihilistic, and despairing. Somewhere I still have their cassette. It wasn't all that long after seeing them that my first band came together.
Missing the NIN-David Bowie tour is one of my great regrets, absolutely.
I have heard some Das Ich. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I seem to remember hearing that they kind of won the female singer from Swedish EBM-band Cat Rapes Dog in a poker-game.

Edit: nope, I misremembered, that was And One.
 

Ryujin

Legend
In no particular order:

- @ Rich Stadium, in Buffalo, 1982 - David Johansen, who opened for The Clash, who in turn opened for The Who. I probably don't really need to expand upon this much.

- @ The Canadian National Exhibition grounds bandshell, 1984 - Nash the Slash, opening for Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark. Nash the Slash doing "Swing Shift" on the electric plexiglass violin, backed up by a reel to reel tape machine. OMD doing "joan of Arc", backed up by a 20 piece orchestra that suddenly appeared from behind the closed stage curtains. Made all the better by the gorgeous little Goth girl who accompanied me.

- @ The Kingswood Music Theatre, 1984 - Simple Minds, "New Gold Dream" tour. Hearing the title song swell up and fill an open air venue was incredible.

- @ The Ontario Place Forum, 1985 - Strange Advance. They started out as two guys, in Vancouver, with some songs and a bunch of studio musicians to back them. Sudden popularity meant they had to somehow get an actual touring band together in a few weeks, to tour right across Canada. Unlike most acts they had it even more together, live, than they did in studio. Amazing. Went back for the second show, the next night. As an aside, while arguably not their best/most popular song (that's probably "Worlds Away"), my favourite song of theirs is "Nor Crystal Tears" which is based on the novel of the same name, written by Alan Dean Foster.

- @ The El Mocambo, 1987 - The Forgotten Rebels. Small venue. Two sets. The second set was far better than the first, after they had taken a brief intermission for "recreation."
 


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