#440: What’s the Best Concert You’ve Ever Seen?

GETTING MORE TALE #440: What’s the Best Concert You’ve Ever Seen?

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?  Maybe it was that band that was always on your bucket list.  Perhaps it was a group who puts on an incredible spectacle, or perhaps even your first show.  Maybe you’ve seen so many shows that you don’t even know where to begin!

I’ve had a lot of memorable concerts in my years.

In 1983, my dad took me to see Johnny Cash at the Center in the Square in Kitchener.  My dad worked for Canada Trust, and Johnny was doing a promotional deal with them and their new “Johnny Cash” money machines.    In light of that, Johnny introduced himself at the start of the show as “I’m Johnny Cash, 24 hour money machine.”  Canada Trust even printed their own “Johnny Cash” money.  I wish I still had some.   Cash played all his classics such as “Orange Blossom Special” and “I Got Stripes”.  June Carter kicked off her shoes.  Not a bad first concert experience at all.

In ’87 I finally saw my first rock show.  At the same venue, Helix rolled into town headlining for their new Wild in the Streets album.  Opening for them were a so-so pop rock band from Prince Edward Island called Haywire.  Their big hit was called “Dance Desire” and the girls were going nuts for them.  They were all going ga-ga for the singer Paul MacAusland.  (Years and years later I actually dated a cousin of his.)  I thought they sucked.  The guitar player Marvin Birt was good, but MacAusland’s idea of stage moves involved him lying down flat on his face!

Helix stormed the stage with “No Rest for the Wicked” and put on an incredible show, involving Brian Vollmer climbing the scaffolding into the loges.  He then ran from there onto the mezzanine, right past us, as I was too shy to hold out my hand for him to slap!  Then drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz mooned the crowd…all backed by high octane Canadian rock and roll.  Every time I have seen Helix, Vollmer has been an energetic mobile threat.  Helix showed us that a rock show was about the on-stage energy rather than lights and explosions.

Best show I’ve ever seen?  No, but it’s in the top ten.

Sometimes it’s the smaller shows that matter most.  In the late 90’s I went to see local Cambridge band The Candidates.  I believe it was a CD release party.  They were playing hard, and drummer Robbie Hancock busted his drum pedal mid-song.  After the show, I told him I thought it was actually their best performance yet.  He didn’t agree, but I told him, “The drum pedal stuff, that doesn’t matter.  The reason it broke is that you were playing so fucking hard, and that’s why the show was so good!”

Next on the list:  Deep Purple, 1996, Purpendicular tour.  T-Rev, Iron Tom Sharpe and I trekked to Toronto to catch the new lineup featuring Ian Gillan, Steve Morse, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, and of course Jon Lord.  Playing a set of personal favourites including “Fireball” (the opener) and “No One Came”, we all left exhausted and satisfied.  Opening act:  Wild T & the Spirit.  Incredible and indelibly scorched into my memory, Purple proved that age does not matter one lick.

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In 1997 I scratched Rush off my list.  This experience was commemorated in Record Store Tales Part 70:  Canada Day Weekend Rush.  Seeing Rush on the most patriotic weekend of the year was a perfect experience.  The played all of 2112 live, an experience not to be missed.  It was also my first time meeting such friends as Tyler (from Tyler and LeBrain fame), and rock god Dr. Dave Haslam.

The final concert on this list would have to be Helix, once again, opening for Alice Cooper in 2006.  The venue was the trusty old Center in the Square, and this time we were in the second row.  Alice Cooper was on his Dirty Diamonds tour, a killer record and a great live set.  Helix were in the midst of working on a new EP to be called Get Up, and they played the instantly catchy title track live.  This time, when Brian came down to the seats, I succeeded in shaking his hand.  He must have noticed the guy in the front who knew every word….

Honorable mentions:  Blue Rodeo and “Weird Al” Yankovic.  I’ve seen Blue Rodeo so many times that I could almost make a list of the best Blue Rodeo concerts I’ve ever seen.  As for Weird Al, what’s not to like?  He has a crack band that can play anything.

Conspicuous by their absence on this list:  Kiss.  This experience was recorded in Record Store Tales Part 8.  Not only did Iron Tom make us miss the first few songs, but it was a boring by-the-numbers setlist.  That would have been fine except for the after-concert shenanigans that didn’t see me getting home until 4 am the next day…with a 10 am opening shift at the Record Store.  Good times?  Not!

Of these shows, I really don’t know which was the best.  Maybe they were all the best!  What’s yours?

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43 comments

    1. Nice … My only Steve Vai live experience was the first of 3 times I saw Zappa Plays Zappa live. With Terry Bozzio on drums too. Note: Napoleon Murphy Brock, who sang alot of the songs on that tour, was absent from that show for a family matter … so it was improvisation time. Vai sang a couple songs that night. Amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wanted to see that tour but never got the chance. Vai really is so innovative, I know a lot of my own guitar playing comes from him. Speaking of Terry Bozzio I had a chance to interview him over the phone on my blog, we talked about a whole bunch of stuff. Feel free to check it out (it’s in two parts) http://mixolydianblog.com/2013/08/22/my-conversation-with-terry-bozzio-part-1/
        http://mixolydianblog.com/2013/08/22/my-conversation-with-terry-bozzio-part-2/

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  1. Hmmm. I saw a great Tool show with lazers and videos and stuff in Ireland sometime around 2006-2008. It was spellbinding.

    Tesseract with Protest The Hero was a revelation: https://kingcrimsonprog.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/ive-just-been-to-see-tesseract-and-protest-the-hero-live/

    And Queensryche with Todd was pretty amazing:
    https://kingcrimsonprog.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/i-went-to-go-and-see-queensryche-live-two-nights-ago/

    My very first concert was Ozzfest Ireland (umm 2002-4 somewhere) and even on a bill with Slayer, System Of A Down, and an extra super long set from Tool becuase Ozzy was injured, the band that blew me away was Mushroomhead… the performance was one of the most entertaining, genuine, and exciting I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Can’t explain why, They’re not even in my top 50 favourite bands, but man, they tore it up that night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I live about an hour and a half south of Cleveland, where Mushroom head are from, so I’m always coming across people who love them. You’re the first from outside Ohio I’ve heard sing their praises.

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  2. I’ll see Blue Rodeo every time they’re in town! And I’d agree that sometimes those smaller shows can leave a huge impression.
    Personal favourite shows? Saw the Hip in Philly on the Music at work tour, really neat seeing them in a club as opposed to an arena (ditto Blue Rodeo in Glasgow 2005)! Great Big Sea always puts on a great show too, tough to single out one performance.
    I often become a bigger fan of bands after seeing them live as well.
    Green Day at Edgefest ’98(ish) and Coldplay in Glasgow on the same day they played Live 8 were both special shows for me.
    Neat idea for a post Mike!

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  3. I’m not sure what the best show I’ve seen was. Either Chimaira or Primus, both in 2003. Both played mind blowing high energy sets.
    I can definitely say what the worst show was : Damageplan in 2004.

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  4. Kris Kristofferson – March 26, 2006. Simply the coolest guy with just a guitar being so perfectly cool. Number one by itself.

    Sooooo many more … Saw Creatures of the Night and Lick it Up tours (take that LeBrain ;) ) . Have seen The Rheostatics in the double digits and all those shows were different set lists. Iron Maiden playing Massey Hall was pretty special considering the venue. Tenacious D on the Pick of Destiny Tour was fucking amazing theater rock. Have cried at one of many Steve Earle shows as well. Metallica on the Ride the Lightning tour was epic. This could go on forever ……

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    1. Oh .. and worst show ever? Well .. i guess it has to be seeing Jethro Tull at Lulu’s in Kitchener. First … Ian Anderson complained between the first few songs about the smoking in the bar and threatened to walk off… Then we realized that they were using canned backup vocals … and that was it for us. Me and my buddy Chewie left. Gotta be the worst one.

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  5. Best concert ever? Jeez, I don’t know if I could pick just one…

    I was two nights in a row with my chest against the subs, front and center, for B.B. King. Got his autograph, too. I stood in the same spot for James Brown, close enough to touch his blue suede shoes. I saw the Rolling Stones (with Stone Temple Pilots) at the Ex on the Voodoo Lounge tour. They played Satisfaction that night, and they’d avoided it all tour.

    Or maybe the Tragically Hip in a small theater in Montreal. Or Doc Cheatham on his 90th birthday concert in a small law building auditorium, then meeting the man and having a piece of his birthday cake. Or Sloan on the original Twice Removed tour (with Local Rabbits opening), or more recently, Mastodon and Gojira blew my head off. Or…

    Man, I’ve seen so many shows that were really good. I’ve never listed them all, but probably over 150 different bands (some more than once). Best ever? I don’t think I could choose, honestly!

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        1. Ha. We got soaked in the rain. And pepper-sprayed! Cops came and took out a Dude in the section over from us. He resisted, so they sprayed him and everyone in radius (the breeze blew it to us) choked liked crazy. That shit’s nasty.

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  6. Oh man, worst concert? That’s another ball of wax.

    I could say Black Crowes at Massey Hall on the Three Snakes tour, Chris so fucked up he couldn’t even stand up. Or Moke, opening for the Crowes at the Warehouse in 1999 – they were super shite hahaha.

    But probably the worst would have to be Lenny Kravitz at Pine Knob (with the Crowes too). Lenny, you lip syncing, going out into the crowd and tying up 15 minutes of the gig trying to get back to the stage, I’m a rock god so you must love me idiot bastard. Bah. Go home, ya putz.

    You know, I’m just realizing, all three of those experiences somehow involved the Crowes. But only one was them being bad. Well, just Chris. That Massey show was really pretty good for the rest of the band.

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  7. Favourite show!? Oh … that’s honestly too tough! I dare say it was the Mark Lanegan and Masters Of Reality show at the Glasgow Garage back in 2001. Both were incredible that night …

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  8. Neat post, Mike. I’ve seen a ton of concerts that have been awesome experiences, but judging them based on enduring emotion:

    Most memorable shows: KISS in Mexico City in ’98 on the Psycho Circus full make-up reunion tour. My inner 14-year-old (literally) cried for joy at finally seeing them; Accept in Santiago, Chile, in 2013 on the Stalingrad tour (pure metal bliss); and my first rock show, Robin Trower in Utah in 1980 on the Victims of the Fury tour (beyond words how much this one impacted my subsequent life as a music fan).

    No truly bad ones, per se, but least memorable shows: Mastodon/Gojira/Kvelertak in Pittsburgh in 2013 (horrible sound; went with my son – should have been epic so doubly disappointing); country band Alabama in Utah in 1981 (just boring); Guitarist Eric Johnson in 2014 on his “Eclectic Guitar” tour with fellow guitarist Mike Stern (too much meandrous noodling, and as a guitar hero fanatic, that’s hard for me to say).

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  9. Dio with Twisted Sister supporting in 1984 was the top concert for me. There are quite a lot of other great concert memories as well like Ozzy with a very hungry Metallica in support and Aerosmith with Ted Nugent to name a few.

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  10. I’m in the category of so many great shows it’s hard to pick just one. I’d say Blur with Pulp opening in 1994, Spiritualized opening for Radiohead in 1998, James in 2008, Leonard Cohen at the K-Rock centre…

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  11. Whitesnake early 90’s was a great show as was Ozzy about 97/98ish before reality tv wrecked things… Queensryche in 2006 before things went well south was a cool experience getting to see soundcheck, recent Foo Fighters very memorable, Maiden of course and Metallica, Megadeth all good of course…

    The Angels always a great show and night back when as was Barnsey and plenty other local acts but the best memory was seeing Noiseworks touring their Touch record back in 89, just bang on rock n’roll Jon Stevens (still) one of the best frontmen and singers getting around!

    DIO in 84 with TwistedSister 80’smetalman? Wow, talk about a classic \m/

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  12. Nice one Mike.

    My best ever gig was Beastie Boys at London Astoria in June 1994 – the coolest, best and hippest band in the world at a small venue and me hanging over the front rail. I got to high-five all three Beasties AND Dj Hurricaine. Best ever by some distance.

    First gig was AC/DC at Wembley on the Heatseeker tour but Jane’s Addiction at Leeds University in ’91 and Manic Street Preachers in Leeds July ’93 were real life-savers for me.

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  13. It be too tough to pick an absolute favorite show but one thing all my most memorable shows have in common was the artist broke down the fourth wall. The late Michael Hedges was a master at sucking the audience into a performance as was Ani DiFranco.

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  14. My top ones would be Triumph, Rush, AC/DC, Tragically Hip(from small bar with under 100 people to Molson Park), Van Hagar, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Dayglo Abortions and Hanson Brothers/Nomeansno, Mel Brown about 100 times.

    Worst -Jeff Healey(horrible small arena sound), Aerosmith( bad sound and chick screaming in my ear the entire show), Iron Maiden(worst setlist everrrrr), Billy Idol and Kim Mitchell (thrown in paddy wagon at both)

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  15. wow tough question. The ones that stand out from so any great ones….Scorpions World Wide Live in San Diego in 84 & Black Sabbath reunion show in 98? When they reunited with Ozzy amazing. When they played Black Sabbath live…Probably the best song Ive ever witnessed live! I think it was the same show that BS played a set with Halford singing because Dio wouldn’t share a venue with Ozzy. But saw a few shows up there with Ozzy and Sabbath its all a little fuzzy now….lol

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  16. Gee, how did I miss this one! I was also at that Rush concert in 1997. Went with an old boyfriend. That was a good concert! Anytime I have seen Rush has been the best. concert. ever. The Who were great, AC/DC…. Eric Clapton…B.B. King! 54-40…I have one disappointing band I’ve seen in particular, but I am gonna save it for now. ;)

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    1. WOAH! So you and I were at the same concert!

      Looking forward to your disappointing concert and I’m hoping it’s a crappy band :)

      BB King…oh man! That’s a bucket lister right there, but too late for the rest of us!

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      1. I went with my last boyfriend before K and a couple of other friends from high school. We rented a limo to get us to and from the show. Not my idea but it was cool having a ride in a limo from Sudz to Toronto. :)

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        1. Shadduuup…;)
          Seriously tho…it was a pretty ghetto limo. Had the 80s wing spoiler on the trunk, and Miami Vice pouring out the radio lol

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