Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, or over-think this. Just whatever pops in to mind.
Gosh, I have been to so many concerts. Hundreds. See those ticket stubs in there? That is just the last ten years, after I had effectively stopped going to concerts. Best Concert? In the spirit of not over-thinking it (per our instructions), it just may have been Pearl Jam last night in Denver. I have seen the band a lot. Over ten times, I would say. Last night’s show was unique and amazing. And long. Almost four hours. I wrote that up this morning, though, if you are interested.
I can’t think of any overtly bad shows. Ok, there were some that were a little disappointing. I saw Smashing Pumpkins three different times on the Siamese Dream tour. Each and every one of those shows was stopped early because Billy lost his shit at something stupid. However, the band was absolutely at the height of their powers then. So, even a shortened Pumpkins set was still more beautiful and powerful and intense than every other rock band playing a full set. At that time, in that era, on that tour, Smashing Pumpkins*** were the greatest rock band in America. This was a band at the height of their powers > like Guns and Roses ‘Appetite for Destruction’ era. Zeppelin in ’77, the Destroyer bootleg era Chili Peppers*** on the ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’ tour. Beastie Boys*** on ‘Ill Communication’. Nirvana*** on Nevermind tour. Pearl Jam*** on the Ten Tour. Police*** on ‘Synchronicity’. Prince in the ‘Purple Rain’ era.
Billy Corgan: he will cut you
These are bands that were in top form, taking over the Earth. It never lasts long, but if you can catch a band in this moment, you should.
There was another show I was disappointed at, but not the band’s fault at all. Back at Lolla 2 (1992) Pearl Jam had been added to the bill last minute. They were just coming up, and getting bigger every day. Because they were a late add, they had a shitty time slot. They went on at 2 pm. PLUS, it was a school/work day. So, about half the audience wouldn’t show up until about 7 pm, after work, time to catch the headliners. PLUS – it was Phoenix in the summer. So, it was 118 degrees out… as it is in summer in Phx.
At this point in time, I was already a rabid Pearl Jam fan. This was my third time seeing them, and they were still just out whoring for their very first album. I saw them three times in Phoenix in one year. Can you imagine how many shows they must have played that year? Editors note: I counted them up. They played 71 shows in one year. So, there was virtually no one there to see them. It was early and it was hot as hell. There was no shade at this venue, so most folks found a shaded beer garden and holed up there for a few hours. Sadly, those folks missed an amazing show. Pearl Jam ALWAYS puts on a killer and passionate show.
Most overrated live band
Poison. Actually, I don’t know how they are ‘rated’ live. But, I do enjoy their music. I don’t actually have any albums, but I know the music. Many, many years ago I had the cassette ‘Look what the cat dragged in’. Look at this cover. They were seriously hot, beautiful women. Their show was flat. It felt like they were just going through the motions. I fully get how that happens. After 4 or 500 hundred live shows, I imagine it gets tedious. The good bands, though, never let it show.
Oh, and Pink Floyd. That is correct, I have not only seen Pink Floyd, but they sucked. Even kookier – I can tell you that every other person there will tell you it was the greatest show in history. Why the discrepancy? Because most people are stooges. Couple that with the fact that I seriously am an expert in live concerts. I have actually seen more national touring acts than all of your friends put together.
At this point (early 90’s, Division Bell tour) the band was basically the David Gilmour show. That isn’t a necessarily a bad thing. The band played only expected songs. The setlist was boring and predictable. On top of that, the versions played were too good. There was no character or intimate moments. It literally sounded like the band put on a greatest hits CD and stood there. I understand that saying Pink Floyd is wildly over-rated sounds like a hipster douche. However, they are wildly overrated. I very much enjoy their music. However, about 60% of it lost its appeal after I stopped doing drugs. In an unrelated side note, here is my favorite Pink Floyd song, performed awesomely by David Gilmour. This is a beautiful and unique performance of a very deep cut… the kind of moments I live for… and the kind of moments that were not present that evening in Tempe. I could tell you the name, but it’s so absurd you wouldn’t believe me. Put some headphones on and dig it!
If you ever get me cornered, ask me to tell you about the drive home. In a blizzard. On drugs. In a strange car. With a busted window. With 3 guys tripping balls. Oh, I guess I just told you the story. Well, never mind.
I love to play this song camping. It’s tough for the others. I tell them I am going to play some Floyd. Then, I play that song, an Fearless. People get quite disappointed. Sorry, but Wish you were Here gets boring after playing it for 30 years.
Most underrated live band
Again, I am going to mention a couple here. The first is Barenaked Ladies. I haven’t seen them since Steven Page left, so I can’t vouch for their shows now. However, this band is the most fun band live… consistently. I went in to the first show (tour supporting Rock Spectacle, and excellent live collection) just being a casual fan. Maybe even the tickets were free. I can’t remember laughing so hard or feeling so engaged as I did that night. Once that happened, I went to see them every chance I got. In Winterpark the show became rather famous among hardcore fans as the ‘pipe guy’ show.
It’s a great story, but one you need to hear in person. I have met hardcore BNL fans, who have never been to Colorado. I tell them “I was at the ‘pipe guy’ show and they gush every time. Ever been to a rock show at a ski resort? It is super cool. They set up a stage at the bottom of the hill/run. Then, the people just fill up the hill. Everyone has a great site line, because you are halfway up a mountain. On top of that, you are in the woods. It is just magical.
Oh, the other is James Taylor. As you can guess, I have seen him a ton, too. Over ten times. Now, you imagine a James Taylor show is relaxed white people listening to very pretty songs. It is. But, it is SO much more. First off, his voice is still crystal clear. It sounds as good or better than it did in 1972, when Fire and Rain first came out. Next, he is a super good guitar player. Then, my favorite part; he is incredibly funny. He is as engaging and fun as BNL. There is no concert I laugh at more than a James Taylor show. He gets is self image. He is keenly aware that is a punchline of all that is white and boring in music. He plays off that. Here is my favorite song of his, Copperline.
Best concert album
Simon and Garfunkel – Live in Central Park. There is no further discussion. There is top five list. Just that concert, far and away above the others. I defy you to watch this and not cry.
*** I was at these shows