Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reeling in the Years--- My ten Favorite Live Rock Concerts

In the wake of the huge response to the previous rock n' roll posts, I offer the list of the ten best concerts I have seen and would love to have captured on my reel to reel recorder. Of course everyone will have a different list since we haven't all gone to the same concerts. And of course it is also true that you might catch a band on an off day, or on a remarkably good day. The issue is-- were they in top form when you saw them, or not? A lot of things can factor into such a list: 1) the weather; 2) the equipment; 3) the performance; 4) the length and breadth of the performance; 5) who were the preliminary bands (if any)?
I am listing these in no particular order.

1) The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder in the Charlotte Coliseum. The acoustics were o.k., but the performances could hardly have been more of a study in contrasts. I loved them both, but actually Stevie Wonder, who opened the showed, was better than the Stones in terms of actual performance.

2) Bob Dylan and the Band in Charlotte Coliseum. The Band came out and did a wonderful set of their own first, and then Bob came out and did an electric, and then an acoustic set. His voice actually sounded decent (ala Sarah vintage) and he did not mumble through things. Pure magic, especially the acoustic set.

3) The Eagles and Joni Mitchell in Cameron Indoor Stadium (at Duke)-- This was just after the first Eagles lp was released, and they were an 'item' as country rockers. This was also just after Mitchell's Blue lp hit the top of the charts. They were both in peak form, and all the cigarette lighters burned out asking for more encores this was so great.

4)The Moody Blues at Blossom Center (near Cleveland)-- This was later in their career but they came out smoking and did not slow down. I was amazed how good the vocals were, especially Justin Heyward, and they did a nice cross-section of their good stuff. The symphonic sound was even better than in the old Melletron days.
Question was the last encore and everyone was ready to enter the Kingdom at that point.

5)The Little River Band at House of Blues (Myrtle Beach)-- This was stunning, and I love concerts in small venues anyway. They did all their multitudinous hits singing with verve and playing immaculately. It was an evening to remember, and even my children loved it and sang along to the tunes.

6) Bruce Hornsby Solo (Kentucky Theater, Lexington)--- I have always liked his incorporation of southern folk music into his performances, and he is an amazing pianist. It was wonderful, and he sang well.

7) Joe Cocker and the Greaseband and Jefferson Airplane (at Fillmore East, N.Y.)-- This was my first introduction to what big time rock concerts were going to be lie, and I was simply blown away. "I got by with a little help from my friends"

8) Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young at the Kennedy Center (D.C.)-- We hitched a ride from Chapel Hill to see this one, and took the Sunday night all nighter bus back to the Hill for Monday classes. And it was worth all the lost sleep. Ronstadt had just released Heart Like a Wheel, and she blew everyone out of the building with her killer vocals and band. Neil needed to be completely up to snuff to beat that opening act, and he was--- playing both acostic and electric numbers with verve. Another magical night.

9) David Crosby and Graham Nash at Duke--- These guys could take you right on out of the building and into the sky with their immaculate harmonies and the wonderful 12 string guitar playing by Crosby. They did songs from the Byrds days (Hey Mr. Tamborine Man) the Hollies days, the CSN days, their solo lps. It was acoustically fabulous and enough to make anyone fall in love with their music unless they had a heart of stone. I later saw Crosby here with his son's band (CPR) in Lex. and he still has the juice. The CSN concert in Charlotte was good as well, and Still added a hard edge with his blues songs and great guitar licks.

10) Eric Clapton and Friends in the Greenboro Coliseum-- (the friends being Duane Allman, Ringo Starr, Pete Townsend). This was great, and we got a selection of all Clapton's ouevre, even from Yardbirds and Cream and Blind Faith days. Naturally, Layla was the encore that brought down the house. I did also see the Who much later do Quadrophenia, in Indiana of all places, and they were good, but it was long after the Moon and Entwhistle days, sadly.

Other concerts I loved just outside the top ten-- Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, Uriah Heep, Poco, Foreigner, Collective Soul, the Allman Brothers, Seals and Croft, the Beach Boys, America with Christopher Cross, Elton John (in Boston Garden after I ran the Boston Marathon in 1993), Gordon Lightfoot, Howard Jones, Leo Kottke, Judy Collins, and the beat goes on.


Carrie Allen said...

You are the coolest theologian ever.

Ben Witherington said...

Thank you Carrie, that's very kind of you.

But what are your favorite all time concerts? And help me with one more thing. Radiohead is obviously a popular band with Christians, but boy do they have a lot of 4-letter words in their songs. Waz up wid dat?


Bill said...

Your post reminds me of the two "legendary" concerts I attended in my younger days.
I saw the Mamas and the Papas at the Hollywood bowl. The legendary part is that the opening act was a relatively unknown guitarist from Seattle named Jimi Hendrix. I was blown away, but a lot of the 20,000 people there were more into cool vocals than loud guitars. The story is that Hendrix left the stage furious because of the audience reaction.
The other concert of note was in the gym at Cal-State Fullerton (I was a student there). The two headliners were Frank Zappa and Alice Cooper, with the Don Ellis Orchestra as the opening act. Don Ellis died prematurely, but if you haven't heard his music, look it up.

Ben Witherington said...

Bill I would have loved to have been at that first concert you mentioned especially. I would really have loved to be at the famous Monterrey Pop Festival which had so many up and coming artists.


steve said...

ok now, ben, I accepted your olive branch explanation at leaving Springsteen completely OUT of your previous post...(The Little River Band? LOL.)

But now---insult to injury---no mention of a live performance from the BOSS? I am speculating here---could either of these be true: 1) you have never seen Springsteen in concert (GASP)...or 2) Bruce dated one of your old girlfriends??? Hence, the bitterness? Come clean with us, your admiring fans...

Bill Kinnon said...

My all time favourite concert was seeing the Eagles just after Take It Easy was released. They were the opening act for Procul Harem at Massey Hall in Toronto. They blew the Harem off the stage!

Dire Straights' On the Night Tour at Maple Leaf Garden's in the '90's would be a close 2nd. The 11 piece band's playing was fabulous and the sound (in that old hockey arena) was truly amazing.

The worst concert I saw was U2 three nights after Dire Straights and also at MLG. The sound was terrible. The teenage crowd stood for three hours - forcing us to stand as well. And. Did I mention. The sound was terrible. (I am a U2 fan.)

And I'd have to go with Carrie. You are the coolest theologian ever - though Stackhouse may be giving you a run for your money.

Ben Witherington said...

I certainly would have loved to see Bruce in concert, and Clarence and the band, but they hardly ever played in my part of the South. The only time they came close was when I lived in Ohio, and by then I was teaching on four Ashland campuses and there was no way for me to go with schedule conflicts (i.e. I was in Detroit teaching, when he was in Cleveland and vice versa).


Kyle said...

I saw Radiohead in concert earlier this year. I might have enjoyed it more, except for the fact that I was on the lawn at a gigantic amphitheater, it rained on me, and I could barely see the band. They're a solid live act, I guess, but their songs sound pretty much the same live as on the albums.

Unfortunately most of the bands I like are fairly obscure indie rock artists who are either Japanese (and therefore don't really come to the US), or just don't come by Atlanta very often. Perhaps they think the southern US consists of hillbilly yokels. Anyway, I saw Dinosaur Jr. open for The Black Keys last year, and they totally rocked, as I expected. J Mascis is a phenomenal guitarist. The Black Keys, on the other hand, were pretty uninteresting.

I would have loved to see Ten Years After at Woodstock. Alvin Lee can play some serious geetar!

Marine Chaplain said...


I'm not a huge concert goer--but I fulfilled a longtime dream of seeing Paul McCartney in concert twice (2002, 2005). It was awesome being there, but since I could only afford the cheaper seats, he looked about 1 inch tall. So I spent much of my time watching him on the big screen, something I could have done for much less money with the concert DVD.


Blake said...

I've been to very few concerts in my short life, but the most memorable one is the Newsboys on their Take Me To Your Leader tour back in 96 or 97. It was in Sioux City, IA at the Municipal Auditorium which was frequently used by WWF and WCW. Anyways, they descended from the ceiling onto the stage on platforms made to look like Martian terrain as they opened with "Take Me to Your Leader."

Marc Axelrod said...

I'm not a concert guy, generally speaking. I prefer the cd or the mp3 or the dvd.

That said, I've seen the Boss twice, once on the 2nd leg of the Born in the USA tour and once at the Concert for the Opening of the Rock Hall of Fame. That was the best concert, because you had Chuck Berry, Allman Bros, Aretha, Mellencamp, Dylan, Fogerty, Soul Asylum, Sheryl Crow, Soul Asylum, and more.

I saw Rick Springfield in 1983 at Blossom. I had to go and watch my sister. I think I was the only member of the male species there that night.

But Rick rocked! I became a fan at that show.

One of the best shows I've seen was at our Gospelfest this past weekend: Praises to Him. Their studio albums are so-so, but their live performances are ephemereal

Otherwise, my favorite live cds are
1. KISS Unplugged
2. BB King - Live at the Regal
3. The Boss 1975-1985
4. The Who - Leeds
5. The Rolling Stones - Get Yer Ya Ya's Out
6. Neil Diamond p- Hot August Night - cd one, not so much cd 2
7. Allman Bros band - Fillmore East
8. The Ramones - It's Alive
9. Frampton Comes Alive
10. AC/DC Live

I woke up at 3am last night and couldnt get back to sleep, and it was too early to read. So I put the headphones on and played some old rock. Very nice!

Ben Witherington said...

Ten Years After! Thank you for reminding me.... what an incredible lp they did A Space in Time was a fabulous album. It came out at the same time as Spirit's Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (also a fabulous lp). Just amazing. And Alvin Lee rocked.


Ben Witherington said...

The best Christian concert I ever went to was Jesus 76--- Andre Crouch, Phil Keaggy, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Love Song, and I think Larry Norman. It was grand. Ann and I were counselors helping Leighton Ford, an old GCTS friend. It was interesting watching the music and then people getting slain in the Spirit--- far out.


Crowm said...

I saw Guns & Roses open for Motley Crue in Frankfurt a few decades ago. Axl and the German fans stole the show. It was my first "big time" concert.

The greatest show I saw was your #7 - Joe Cocker. I don't use the word much but *AWESOME*. He had just a few thousand friends there that night.

pmPilgrim said...

Ben your Rock and Roll experience is awesome. I thought mine was fun but you rock.

My most awesome concert was probably Cream in their next to last concert (I think) at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Wow.

I was also at the Atlantic City Pop Festival two weeks before Woodstock. Also Wow. The then unknown Santana were amazing as was Zappa, who, as I remember (?) played a half-hour long single number that was rock, jazz, and blues rolled into one.

Jethro Tull at Muhlenberg College in 1970 would classify as a biggie.

My worst concert experience- taking my daughter to the New Kids on the Block - oh, that's right- you said rock concerts.

Keep up the good work as a rock and roll theologian.

Odgie said...

My Top 5:

The Allman Brothers Band at the Beale Street Music Festival in 2006

Tom Petty and Steve Winwood at the Nissan Pavilion

John Hiatt at the Fortune-Williams Music Festival in 2004

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band at Wolf Trap this year

Danny Gatton and the Redneck Jazz Explosion at Cellar Door

Bjørn Are said...

Larry Norman was always great!

What I would have liked to see in the 70's was Deep Purple and ELP (and of course Hendrix).

Managed to see some of the more unusual bands, though - especially Gentle Giant (wow!!), Camel, Genesis (Lamb lies down on Broadway tour with Peter Gabriel - wow!!) and Mahavisnu Orchestra, as well as the more usual ones like Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep, Rainbow and Yes (wow!).

Bjørn Are said...

If one should catch adventurous bands from rather more recent years today, I think one could do worse things than got to see Muse, Porcupine Tree or even Dream Theater.

Though Mars Volta may be too frenetic for the stray visitor.

SJBedard said...

I have been fortunate enough to see a number of great bands in concert including the Who, Pink Floyd, Rush, Alice Cooper, Police and David Bowie. But the best concert I have been to was Yes' Union tour. They had both the classic Yes and the new Yes lineup on the same stage. We were only a few rows back from the revolving stage. It was incredible!

Living the Biblios said...

Having managed a record store before going to seminary, this is up my alley!

Best shows in no particular order:

U2 in Cleveland, Joshua Tree era. No explanation required.

King Crimson in Columbus, OH, Discipline era. Great lineup.

Richard Thompson in Columbus, 1980's. Small club, great chops

Waterboys in Dallas, 1990. Love Mike Scott and band.

Lost Dogs in Enid, OK, 1996. When Gene Eugene was still with us. I love Mike Roe/77s.

Charlie Peacock at Cornerstone, 1987ish. First appearance there.

Joan Armatrading at Red Rocks in Colorado, 1983, what a place to see a show!

Tommy Emmanuel in Wichita, 2006.
Amazing guitarist and entertainer

Other notables:
Went to a Lou Reed show in Columbus, OH and ended up in a video for "Busload of Faith." My nanosecond of fame.

Was at the tragic Who show in Cincinnati, Dec 3, 1979.

Unknown said...

Through my whole life, I have rarely had simultaneously both money and time for big concerts. So I have seen very few. But I saw Emerson, Lake, and Palmer bring down the house in San Antonio several years ago. Also, I would have been embarrassed to admit that I really enjoyed a Howard Jones concert I saw back in my college days, but you have him listed too, so I guess I can say it now! :) He is a great musician. Too bad he came along in the eighties when all musicians were afflicted with a mania for pop and synthesizers.

Corpus Christi Outreach Ministries said...

13Growing up across the Hudson from N.Y.C. I saw all my stuff at the garden. I missed Floyd, the Stones and others, true regret! I liked Foreigner, I think it was 1978? The 'head games' tour? Also, when I get a chance to catch an old group on direct T.V. some sound great, others not so great. the Eagles and Fry still got it!

John Fraser said...

Well, having been to Ichthus a few times during my Asbury days from 1992-1996, my favorite was when Michael Sweet showed up for his set 45 minutes late after getting caught in traffic from the airport or something and only did three or four songs. But one of those was the classic Stryper hit "Calling On You." That song is particularly special to me because it was watching the video for that song in 1989 that led eventually to me giving my life to the Lord.

My second favorite was the year that Petra was the closing act. Their lead singer started off by declaring how amazed and thankful he was that it hadn't rained for the whole weekend of Ichthus, a happenstance which could almost be considered miraculous. Halfway through the set, it started to POUR! People were running for cover (or maybe to close their tents and car windows), while some other guys just took off their shirts and started sliding in the mud! It was definitely memorable!

Marine Chaplain said...


Funny you mention Ichthus, I went several times during high school--and when it came time to pick a seminary--I picked ATS in part because I thought it would be cool to be within walking distance of the camp grounds--and you know, I never went once the whole 4 years I was there!


willytribs said...

I'm not sure who is "rock", but here goes:

Tom Waits - eighth row - unbelievable
Prince - three times
A Silver Mt. Zion
Josh Ritter
Dylan - although his vocals were way too high in the mix
Phish - Vegas '98 during the second set they covered the Velvet Underground's Loaded album (a close second is the infamous Nutter Center '97)
I concur on Bruce (Hornsby that is, I would love to see the other Bruuuce).
I am going to see Sigur Ros in September and I am fairly certain it will be incredible

Two additional comments: I am jealous of the Dylan/The Band show (The Band are easily one of the most underrated great rock bands). I side with the Dude (who abides and takes it easy for all of us sinners) in that I cannot stand the Eagles.

Others include Bela Fleck, Dan Tyminski, King Wilkie, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Steve Kimock, Branford Marsalis, Nickel Creek, Sufjan Stevens, Emmylou Harris (Red Dirt Girl was easily one of the best things I've ever seen live), Neko Case

Unknown said...

Ben, U2's zooropa tour changed concerts forever. I saw them in 93 in Adelaide Australia, and then a couple of years back in Vancouver on the Vertigo tour.

On that ZooTV tour with the hanging cars, if 10 percent less people had gone to the concerts worldwide u2 would have gone broke. What an astonishing risk to take.....

Other memorables include Pearl Jam at memorial drive during the height of the grunge movement, Michael Jackson's "History tour" - Adelaide Oval 1996, and Morrisey formerly of The Smiths, at Thebarton Theatre in 2003.

Worst concert experience ever - Tool, 1997.

Ken Carter said...

Hey Ben, This got me going down memory lane too. My favorites: Linda Ronstadt in Atlanta, Chris Hillman at the Great Southeastern Music Hall/Atlanta, Randy Newman and The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performing the Good Old Boys album, Bruce Springsteen at Auburn (before Born To Run), Chicago at Auburn, Alison Krauss at Merlefest, Steve Earle at the Visulite in Charlotte, Eagles in Atlanta (before Hotel California), Gregg Allman at the Fox Theater in Atlanta (where I met Jimmy Carter, then governor in the crowd), Lyle Lovett(and Sam Bush) in Greensboro, Donna The Buffalo at Merlefest, Bruce Hornsby and Roseanne Cash at Carowinds, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller at Carowinds, and the Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball tour at the Carolina Theater in Greensboro. Ben, you really need to join me at Merlefest this year!

Ken Carter

Ben Witherington said...

Howdy Brother Ken: I'd love to go to Merlefest with you sometime. Ever go to the Bluegrass festival in Hickory Grove?


Don said...

Great list - I'd have to add the concerts Little Feat did at Lisner Auditorium (DC) in the mid-70s. Some of these became much of the Goodbye Columbus album.

Also around that time, when Gov. "Moonbeam" Brown was running for Pres in 1976, Ronstadt, Jackson Browne & Eagles combined for a fundraiser concert, at the Capital Centre outside of DC. I'd never vote for Brown, but had to attend that show!

One last DC-area show: the live show Poco did at the Washington Monument, summer 1972 (with Looking Glass). What a day, what a crowd, what a band!

Carrie Allen said...

Dr. Witherington -

Thanks for responding! I think I told the whole world that you wrote me back...and called me out on listening to a band with naughty words in some lyrics...so embarassed. ;)

Well, I wanted to explain myself, so I dedicated an entire blog to you on my site. It also lists my top 5 favorite concerts. Which needs to be updated because I just went to see Radiohead for the second time last night, exited the wrong way, and met Thom Yorke (the lead singer). It was quite an experience. So that one has to obviously be my number one now. ;)

But still, you are the coolest.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Carrie, glad you enjoyed the concert. If you ever get a chance to see Toto, you should go. They are one of the few bands from the 70s who still are in top form, and are amazing live still.


Roger said...

Funny you should call it "Reeling in the years" without mentioning the very band that recorded that song! --Steely Dan.
I caught them in concert in Sydney in 2007. They are still absolutely fabulous after all those years. I have never seen an audience of such pumped up excited mostly middle aged groovers!
BTW Your commentary on Corinthians was one of the best books I read at Bible college.