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.
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?