Attending musical concerts has always been a great delight for me. A friend and I were reminiscing about the concerts we’ve attended together in the past 40-plus years including a few in the last year.
I’ve forgotten a few concerts but most of them I recall. I’ve picked 12 that rise above the rest; some for reasons that go beyond just the band’s performance. I have included some other concerts that are notable but did not make the 12.
The list is not ranked.
Paul McCartney (2015). This concert was everything I could imagine. He played for two hours and covered every period of his career. His band was tight and the musicianship superb. Even in his 70s, McCartney is a master showman. Forty years after I had last seen him. Why did I wait so long?
Ozark Mountain Daredevils (1975). My first concert. My two best friends were there. The experience was memorable for several reasons. The OMD had a big hit at the time with “Jackie Blue”, the biggest hit they would ever have. I recall a guy behind us kept yelling for them to play “Standing on the Rock”. In the air was the distinctive smell of Mary Jane. I am going to see OMD this coming week for the first time since 1975. How cool!
Poco (2007). I had never seen the band before and I had great anticipation. Their most popular days were behind them but that didn’t matter. Former band member Richie Furay was the opening act. I asked him to sing “On the Way Home”, a Neil Young song. He replied that he was already doing some Neil Young songs, this wasn’t a tribute to him. I did buy Richie’s book and he autographed it for me. We arrived early, hoping to get an autograph before the concert. It was cold and we were chilled to the bone. When the band arrived they took pity on us and invited us into the venue. It gave us a chance to spend time with them. The concert was incredibly good, the song selection was appropriate and the musicianship was on the money. A wonderful and personal memory.
Mick Taylor (2006). A former Stone, he was playing very small venues. He’s an incredible guitar player, and I was unfamiliar with some of the material he played but it didn’t matter, I was drawn in by his guitar playing. Max Middleton was playing keyboards on the tour, who had played with many rockers including Jeff Beck. After the concert I asked him for an autograph. He was tired but he sat down at our table and signed for us and everyone who approached him. Sitting a few feet from him was a thrill by itself. He hasn’t toured this area since.
Tom Petty / Joe Walsh (2017). I had never seen either, but something told me I needed to get tickets. Joe Walsh played his hits and displayed the silly “Joe” behavior. He covered a lot of musical ground in 40 minutes and I loved every minute of it. Tom played for nearly two hours, his show also covered a lot of ground, 40 years of hits and familiar tracks. His band played familiar arrangements but added enough freshness to let you know they cared about giving you a new experience. Tom died not long after, and I think about that concert all the time.
YES (2013). I’ve seen this band more than any other. They had a new vocalist since the last time they toured here, and I was thrilled to see them again. After the concert we waited outside and caught each one for an autograph. It was the last time I’d see Chris Squire. When they toured here again, I had front row tickets to see them but because of a family emergency, I missed the concert. Squire died soon after. This year I caught their 50th Anniversary Tour.
ELO / BTO (1976). The Electric Light Orchestra owned the radio and was turning out hits faster than any group. This was when they still had the string players in the band. They did a fabulous job bringing the highly produced sound to a live performance. I loved this band. I was unhappy when Jeff Lynne fired the string section and when he reformed the band, only Richard Tandy was invited back. Bachman Turner Overdrive, the headliner, had been huge in the first part of the decade but was beginning to wind down as a band. They played the hits and everyone was happy.
Supertramp (1979). The group had just released Breakfast in America, which was the biggest record of their career, really a high water mark they would never hit again. Besides playing most of the album, their songlist included many favorites from prior albums. The band would never sound better. Later they released a live album from the European arm of this tour, Paris, which serves as their definitive live album. Supertramp was a very 70s band, short pop songs and long progressive instrumental songs. You had to be there.
U2 (1982). This was early in their career, they had hit in America, but only had two albums under their belt. This was a small venue, not the stadium shows of 35 years later. They had an energy and urgency that caught your attention. The guitar of The Edge changed how people played the guitar, less distortion and more phasing. I almost missed “I Will Follow” by being in the bathroom.
Doobie Brothers / Steely Dan (2018). Both bands had lost members. Pat Simmons and Tom Johnston were the only original members of the Doobies, and Donald Fagan was the lone member from Steely Dan. The Doobies played the hits, and played them close to the original records. The fans expected this and the Doobies delivered. Fagan took a different tack, as in recent years, Steely Dan rebuilt their songs to embrace more funk and jazz. I had seen Fagan and Becker a couple of years ago, so I knew what to expect, but after Becker’s death, I wasn’t sure how Fagan would do as the main focus. I wasn’t disappointed, the music was superb and Fagan shared the spotlight with members of his band. After 45 years, these bands still deliver.
Al Stewart (2018). Al was touring for the anniversary of Year of the Cat, released just over 40 years ago. Al played the entire album, with a band. The performance was crisp and faithful to the recordings, Al’s voice is in good shape, and his band did an adequate
job of providing the musical textures. The real joy was were the between song stories, the history and the antidotes that Al provided. I have been waiting years to hear Al again after 30 years.
Chicago (1975). Front row seats, one of the first concerts I attended in college. The sound was not great but the view was awesome. We sat in front of Robert Lamm’s piano and guitarist Terry Kath was in the foreground. I don’t remember much about the music but they played the hits and being in the front row was exciting. Chicago has racked up hit after hit in the first half of the decade so they were red hot. These were the days without huge lighting and video boards, the emphasis was on the music.
The following are concerts not making the list, but notable for many reasons.
The Rolling Stones (1981). The one time I saw the band, a birthday present from my best pal. The concert included an appearance from former member Mick Taylor and Carlos Santana. Everyone should say they saw the Stones once.
Bruce Springsteen (1980). A birthday gift for a girlfriend. She was thrilled and loved it, I did not. Not a bad concert but I just couldn’t keep with her enthusiasm. I’ve become more of a fan through the years.
Crosby, Stills & Nash (2013). For some reason I had never seen this well-loved group, so I was excited about getting to see them. A big disappointment. A show of their former selves. Stills was hardly there. This was Nash’s band. The vocals were weak and it felt uninspired.
Paul McCartney & Wings (1976). Paul’s first tour of America post-Beatles. We waited all night outside of the venue in Kansas City to buy tickets when the window opened in the morning. The concert was great, it is represented on the Wings Over America live album released after the tour. Of the two McCartney concerts, the 2015 concert was better, but this was still very enjoyable.
Art Garfunkel (2002). He was appearing in another town so we went early to see if we could meet him before the concert. We weren’t actually planning to attend the concert. After waiting a few hours, his tour manager approached us. He offered us tickets to the concerts and an opportunity to meet him after the show. The seats were good and Art put on a very good show, although he voice was not quite what it used to be. No matter, his showmanship made up for any deficiency, and he was very nice to us after the show.
Peter Frampton (2011). This was a 35 year celebration of Frampton Comes Alive. He played the entire album, plus some other favorites. The great thing was he recorded the show and made the CD available afterwards. We also met him at his bus afterwards. Peter is a very personable and humble guy. His stories were great. I’ve seen him since and although the more recent concert was good, this one was terrific.
Gregg Allman (2016). His last concert tour, but no one knew it at the time. I had never seen the Allman Brothers in concert. He put on a very enjoyable concert, playing organ and guitar, visiting songs from his entire career. Met him after the concert, although security tried hard to run us off. He briefly chatted and signed some autographs. I wish I had taken a photo with him since he was gone so soon afterward.
Glen Campbell (2011). He was in a career lull, playing smaller venues, late in his career. This was a few months before it was revealed that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. His family was his touring band and they gave him a lot of help on stage. It was clear that his memory was slipping but no one cared. It might have impacted his ability to remember lyrics and which song was next, but it did not affect his guitar playing at all. Afterward, we managed to get backstage with a group that was supposed to meet with him. He was very nice and talked momentarily as he signed autographs. He thanked us for being fans and coming to hear him play.
Kris Kristofferson (2012). He was playing down the street from where I live, just a few blocks. He was also playing solo, just him and his guitar and harmonica. He doesn’t have the greatest voice or guitar skills, but he is able to voice and play everything he needs to deliver a soulful and emotional performance of his story-songs. My only regret was that his bus pulled out quickly after the concert so I wasn’t able to say hello.
Psychedelic Furs / The Church (2015). Like both of these 1980s groups. The Furs had many hits in their day and the Butler brothers are keeping the group going. The Church steadily release new minis and tour behind it. They aren’t resting on their past hits. Steve Kilbey keeps channeling new ideas into their guitar based signature sound. I am going to see them in October, they are on the Starfish 30 year anniversary.
America (2016). I had never saw this group, and that’s a shame. Their soft rock owned AM radio. Their sound is still going strong and they are no lightweights in concert. They have a treasure chest of hits to keep the audience entertained for two hours.
The Moody Blues (2013). This was a fine concert, after almost 50 years of touring, the band knows who to reproduce their records live. The sold-out audience was very enthusiastic. My disappointment was the absence of Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder from the classic days.
The Fixx (2005). This concert was a complete surprise. It was suddenly announced only a few days ahead of time. I love the Fixx and had never seen them. The theater had an open date and the band was traveling through, so a concert was scheduled. $10 per ticket and not many people showed up, so it was like a private concert. Afterwards the band stayed around to chat. Awesome event.
Ray Davies (2010). Ray was playing a small venue in my hometown. We met him before the concert as he was walking downtown. He was accompanied by a band called The 88. He visited the Kinks catalog and his solo material, and told some great stories. Ray
Davies is almost this mystical figure, he was part of the original English Invasion in the mid 1960s, and he is one of the most intelligent lyric writers of any generation.
Brian Wilson (2016). This was the Pet Sounds tour. Wilson, Al Jardine and Blondie Chapman, plus Wilson’s backing band, played everything from Pet Sounds plus other Beach Boys hits. The band provided very good versions of very intricate songs, and managed to reproduce the harmony vocals that are at the heart of their material. Wilson’s voice is not what it used to be, but Jardine and the band filled in nicely.
Steve Winwood (2018). My first time seeing him and it was a great joy. My best pal, who has been with me for many of these concerts, was along and we enjoyed a trip through Winwood’s greatest hits, including those great Traffic songs. He is still a strong performer and did not disappoint.
Ian McLagan (2012). Mac appeared at a local bar one night. He was a founding member of the Faces and played for many years with the Rolling Stones and countless other singers and groups. Mac was a grand gentleman, an unassuming person, humble and funny. In his long career from the 1960s to his untimely death in 2014, he played the biggest stadiums to the smallest clubs, but gave his maximum effort whatever size the crowd. In the last years of his life, he lived in Austin, Texas, and played regularly in a club with his band. His passion was keeping the legacy of the Faces alive. Sadly, he did not live to see a reunion of the band.
Pat Metheny (2007). I’ve seen the guitarist several times in my life, the last in 2007, on the second row of a venue. Pat is recognized as a virtuoso jazz master. From his early years with Gary Burton to fronting his own band and teaming with many other musicians, his music has evolved to win him many Grammys and worldwide acclaim. I’ve lost touch with his music as it’s complexity and more pure jazz roots has evolved past my own tastes. There is no denying his talent or innovation, and he’s one of the most impressive musicians to witness live. I’ll remember the times I saw him and how his music resonated with me. I met Pat once before a different concert as he was getting ready for a run. He was kind enough to let me reminisce about his early music and sign one of his albums. I do miss the days when Lyle Mays was in his band.
Genesis (1980). Genesis was just Collins, Banks and Rutherford then. Their sound had changed after Steve Hackett left, going for a more commercial focus, and their biggest days were ahead. Genesis still leaned toward songs with longer instrumental sections, which was great for concerts. Their musicianship was undeniable. The only time I’ve seen Genesis.