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Best Concerts Ever Attended

The Clash

William and Mary freshman year concert series

I was in the entertainment business for about 16 years so I’ve been to a lot of concerts. I’ve guesstimated about 200-250 in total. Some were memorable for reasons other than the music (my first date with my wife was a Seal concert, I was at Live Aid and the Amnesty International shows), some were forgetful, and some were absolutely mind-blowing.

Sometimes, concert experiences become transcendent where the energy between the audience and the artist keeps escalating and the end result is a magical event. For those of you that have been fortunate to be a part of one of those events, you understand what I’m talking about.

So these are my magical concerts, in date order. I will try to list the year and venure but my memory isn’t what it used to be. Please add your memorable concerts in the comment section…

The Clash – William and Mary Hall Williamsburg, VA 1981 10,000 seat arena
Couldn’t believe this didn’t sell out. great show. Sandinista tour.

Joe Jackson – Chrysler Hall, Norfolk, VA 1983 1200 seat hall
Stepping Out tour. Went with a friend from College. Didn’t know what to expect but blew me away. Played with a bass player, two keyboardists, two drummers and a percussionist. NO GUITAR!!!

The Police – William and Mary Hall, Williamsburg, VA 10,000 seat arena
Synchronicity tour. Reflex (The Politics of Dancing) opened.

Genesis – Merriweather Post Pavillion, Columbia, MD 1984 10,000 seat shed
I had seen Genesis here in 1977, the Seconds Out tour, but this concert can be distilled down to two words: “Supper’s Ready.”

Billy Bragg – Lisner Auditorium, Washington, DC 1984 600 seat hall
Billy and a guitar. First time I heard “A New England” and “Between the Wars”

U2 – Capital Center, Landover, MD 1985 18,000 seat multi purpose arena
First big venue concert tour (Unforgettable Fire), Bono pissed off the security detail by telling everyone to “Come on down, come on down”

Depeche Mode – Warner Theater, Washington,DC 1985 1000 seat hall
Went with Susan Anderson and ran into Andrea Bakewell who would later end up being a girlfriend of mine. Probably the most incredible show in terms of energy. We didn’t want it to end.

Midnight Oil – Merriweather Post Pavilion Columbia, MD 1985 10,000 seat shed
Opened for UB40. Sat in the pit. Saw the energy being expended by Peter Garrett (now the Minister of the Environment in the Australian government). The drummer was hitting the drums so hard that you could see the sweat that had dropped on the drum head being sprayed as he hits the tom. UB40 was a letdown.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Bayou, Washington, DC 1986 300 seat club
300 person capacity and they opened up for Fishbone. Partied with them backstage during the Fishbone set.

Michael Hedges – The Barns of Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA numerous times 250 seat hall
A virtuoso guitar player who passed away too early in his life. Watch the video with your eyes closed and listen because it seems unbelievable that there is only one man playing the harp guitar.

Grateful Dead – RFK Stadium, Washington, DC 1987 50,000 seat stadium
I remember really loving the tour with Bob Dylan opening. Dylan was great and the Dead were on. Plus they did Terrapin Station which I loved. I was um impaired so my memories of the evening may be a bit fuzzy.

Barenaked Ladies – The Birchmere, Alexandria, VA 1992 300 seat club
Opened up for John Wesley Harding. Had no idea who they were and they stole the show.

There’s more but I don’t want to have a super long post. I’ll do part 2 tomorrow.

Categories: Music
  1. Jim
    January 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I was at the Genesis concert, too, as you know. It was particularly special for me, too, because I was surrounded by three of my best friends as Phil told his story to “Cinema Show” with the cardboard cut-outs of Romeo and Juliet, as the bars of light ensnared him during “In the Cage”, and as the New Jerusalem part of “Supper’s Ready” flashed through our souls.
    The first Genesis concert I ever attended – again with you – (Capital Center, November 1981, Duke Tour) was my first best concert. Yes, I also heard the Police at W&M Hall, but I didn’t have any connection to them and their music. I went totally bats at my first Genesis concert, so much so that the girls sitting in front of me turned around and said, “We came to hear them, not you!” I seem to remember saying something similar at the Springsteen concert at RFK Stadium in 1986 that I had to accompany Mimi to. The girls behind me were screaming and when I asked them to be quiet, they said, “When you come to a concert like this, you have to expect it to be loud!”
    Joe Jackson in Munich two years ago was also great. Sonya Kitchell opened for him with a great collection of solo pieces. The people around me noticed that I had her CD and knew her (having just done an interview with her for my company) and asked about her; they were impressed with the music as well.
    Another opener, Ingrid Michaelson (opening for Jason Mraz), also stole the show in my eyes, especially because Jason sang a couple of songs with her, thus showing how highly he thought of her. What a super voice and playful personality!
    I must mention a few more: Elisbeth Leonskaja (or are we just doing pop here?) doing Beethoven and Schubert in November 2009 here in Stuttgart. Moved me to tears. My first Grigory Sokolov concert was ethereal (though they have all been special): Haydn, Komitas and Prokofiev. My most recent Mahler 2 (you knew I’d bring up at least one G.M. concert, didn’t you?) was the most moving. Sunday morning with the Staatsorchester Stuttgart, Manfred Honneck conducting.
    Only problem with having heard so many great concerts already is that I fear nothing may ever equal them again.

  2. Ody
    January 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Remember the Segovia concert where he said, “Me, I’m not tired, but my guitar, She is tired.” And I’m surprised no Maureen Forrester!

  3. Jim
    January 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I mentioned Mahler 2, which means Maureen. Driving from NoVa to Cincinnati with a couple of crazy chicks in 1985 should have been a disaster, but the 7 minutes that Maureen sang more than made up for the intercultural misunderstanding that was going on in the Datsun between Janet and Johanna.
    Driving from Richmond to Charleston, WV, through a snow storm should have been a disaster, but hearing Maureen sing “Das Lied von der Erde” (first time for me to have heard it live, much less with HER) made up for every time Tammi yelled from the driver’s seat, “I can’t see ANYTHING in this blizzard!”
    Driving with Christine from NoVa to Raleigh, NC, to hear Maureen sing Berlioz’s “Nuits d’été” AND Mahler’s 2nd could have been a real trial by fire for our relationship, but Christine actually enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it more! na-na-na-na!
    Driving from Richmond to Trenton, NJ, to hear Maureen sing the “Kindertotenlieder” before an insufferable Bruckner 7 could have meant the end of my concert-going as long as Tammi and I were together, but we just got the hell out of Trenton after the concert – actually DURING the concert: Tammi taught me how to leave a boring concert in the middle. First I thought she was really being rude when she excused herself sometime during the second movement, but I didn’t make it another 5 minutes before leaving myself; and I didn’t even go backstage to say hi to Maureen!
    Oh, and hearing Mahler 3 for the first time with you and our mothers on Mother’s Day 1985 – days after my return from Europe – at the Kennedy Center and then walking up from Row 33 to the front of the stage to give Maureen a red rose could have been embarrassing, but you all thought it was cute. Plus, it got me backstage, where I heard her talking to Rostropovich, who had conducted “the finale with such a beautifully slow tempo” (she said). And she told another back-stage visitor where she was staying. I called her up the next day from Richmond (having had to drive home that evening) and talked to her about her favorite pieces, her collaboration with Bruno Walter, etc.
    And then of course there was the first time I heard Maureen. Tom Field told me about her and told me who Mahler was about two weeks before she came to give a recital at W&M (Oct. 1983). I had just returned from my year in Germany and was the classical DJ for WCWM. The radio station, which was in Phi Beta Kappa Hall above the concert hall where she sang, had two of her old records, which I played the day of her concert. It was the first time I had ever heard the “Songs of a Wayfarer”. After she sang Purcell, Wolf and other songs, I went backstage – as I always did until sometime around my 30th birthday – and talked to her. Tom hadn’t yet taught me to say nothing more than, “I enjoyed the concert very much”. I raved about her (what a great concert it was! what personality! what charm! what humor in the Wolf!) and then went upstairs to get the albums for her to sign. When she wanted someone to take a Polaroid picture of her and her accompanist there, I offered my services. Watching the picture develop in the accompanist’s dressing room, I told him I’d kill to have a picture of her and me. He took one (soon to be posted on fb or my blog). She later told the Dean of Students how surprised yet thrilled she was to discover she had fans in Williamsburg. That was the beginning of a long relationship between Maureen and me which included some correspondence in which I offered to be her chauffeur, interpreter, jack-of-all-trades (I was not yet a master of one). She responded nicely that she had her concert touring under control and I should offer my services to a young singer who would profit from such a gift.

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