Favorite Concert Moments

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What’s your favorite concert? It’s actually a hard question. It depends on where you are in your life, who you went with, how you were feeling. Below are my top concert highlights in descending chronological order. Question marks after a date means that I think it happened at that time but I could be wrong. What are some of your favorite concerts?

Green Day – Xcel Energy Center. September 2005. Billy Joe Armstrong introduced Holiday as a “big Fuck You to George W. Bush? and the crowd full of 10-15 year old boys and their parents went nuts. They played this song so aggressively that if Billy Joe had asked the crowd to storm the capitol we would have done it.

Rock for Change – Xcel Energy Center. October 2004. The last song was Rockin’ in the Free World with Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, R.E.M., John Forgerty, Conner Obst, and others. Pete Buck’s smile was so big, I could see it from across the arena.

Fred Eaglesmith – St. Peter, MN. September 8, 2001.
Fred was in fine form at a free concert in a park in St. Peter. He played every song you wanted and I heard Big Ass Garage Sale for the first time. He told a story about a Dar Williams making a hit of one of his songs by making it into a lesbian song. At first he was uncomfortable about it but after getting the royalty checks, he was “writing lesbian song after lesbian song.? Three days after this show the world changed.

Jonathan Richman – First Avenue. September 1996(?). We saw Jonathan watching the warm up act and my wife went up to him and said we were celebrating our anniversary and could he sing My Love is a Flower for us. About mid-way through the show Jonathan started one song, stopped a few bars in and said, I am suppose to sing this for Elaine and Dean, celebrating their anniversary. He then sang My Love is a Flower.

Johnny Cash – Orpheum Theater. June 1995.
Touring in support of American Recordings, the Orpheum was full of punks, guys in cowboy hats, and old duffers. I went with my dad and we sat in the 9th row. Johnny’s voice was perfect and I was blown away by the songs and the show. Oh the Jayhawks opened with an acoustic set.

Metallica – Target Center. Summer 1991(?). We were in the upper bowl and at one point during the show, the lights illuminated the lower bowl and all you could see were thousands of heads banging in unison, it was an amazing sight.

Meat Puppets – First Avenue Summer 1988(?). The Puppets absolutely jammed! By the end they were playing covers and you couldn’t keep up. They played a version of Rock and Roll that would put Zeppelin to shame (sorry Shane, but it’s true!).

U2 – RFK Stadium. September 1987. I think this was U2’s first big stadium tour but they still were connecting with the audience as if it were a 500 seat theater. They finished with “40? and the crowd kept singing “how long will we sing this song.? We sang it after U2 left the stage, we sang it filing out of the stadium, we sang it in the parking lot, we sang it in the subways and our cars going home. Truly inspirational.

Billy Bragg – 930 Club. Summer 1987. At the height of the controversy over funding the Nicaraguan Contras, Billy Bragg had a very political show in a very political City. Afterward he invited anyone from the audience to come backstage and discuss politics with him.

Ramones – American University. Fall 1986. They played in an old gymnasium with folding chairs. When they came out with the gabba gabba hey signs, they had me. The best I could describe it was the Beach Boys on crack.

Replacements – 7th Street Entry. November 1985.
Part of their 5 night stay to celebrate the release of Tim. At the end of the show as they were being showered with quarters, dimes, and dollar bills, Paul Westerberg uttered the greatest concert closing I ever heard: What’s this shit, we don’t need it, we’re made of the shit. Keep your money, fuck you, good night.

Minutemen – 7th Street Entry. November 1985. They put on an awesome show and D. Boon slipped and fell down dancing in his own puddle of sweat. One month later he was dead in a car accident.

Urban Guerrillas – Williams Pub. New Years Eve 1984(85?). A beer and sex fueled musical party that crossed over two years. I think everyone who went to this show got laid that night.

Black Flag – Duffy’s. Summer 1984. This was the height of Henry Rollins as lead singer of Black Flag and he was in a word powerful. My friend Pete had a religious experience that night (partially thanks to Nigel the bus driver).

Soul Asylum – Whole Music Club. Spring 1984(?). Long before they were famous they were amazing in concert. This show wasn’t my first or last, but was particularly memorable for pure unadulterated rock and roll.

Suburbs – Cabooze. Summer 1983.
Their first show back after a successful California tour. The bassist Michael Halliday came back with a buzz cut which was all the rage with the California punks at the time. They then proceeded to tear the Cabooze apart, with Beej, climbing the lighting scaffolding all over the bar.

Replacements/Husker Du – First Avenue.
Summer 1982. My first show at First Avenue, my first Replacements and Husker Du concert. I went by myself. I was never the same and doubt that I’d even be writing something like this if it wasn’t for this show.


I am sure there are others that I will remember. So check back to see if I add anything.

58 Comments

OK, I'll play. Top 10 concert experiences. I'll actually try to rank them, but the list and order would probably be different if you asked me tomorrow. Sorry in advance for the length, but you asked for it.

10. Wilco, Mayo Civic Auditorium, Rochester, MN, 4/30/08. Second row center, with one of my oldest, bestest buds, for the best rock-and-roll band on the planet at this particular moment gets Wilco into the Top 10. For now.

9. Los Lobos, First Avenue, Spring, 1985. This was pre-La Bamba, and this absolutely ass-kickin' band was still virtually unknown. Remember dancing half-assed polka steps with my wife-to-be on the nortena numbers.

8. Rock for Karl benefit concert, at whatever the old Glam Slam was called at the time. Lots of very cool moments during this great tribute to the then cancer-stricken, and now dearly departed Karl Meuller. A Grant Hart / Bob Mould reunion, a cool solo set by Westerberg (covered Kentucky Rain!), a sweet set by Gear Daddies, and a very memorable Soul Asylum performance.

7. Soul Asylum, Sal's Bar, St. Joseph, MN, Spring 1985. We brought SA up to this St. John's/St. Ben's hangout for a party to celebrate the grand opening of our new college radio studios. The well-scrubbed Catholic boys and girls were not prepared for the sonic onslaught, and the boys pretty much cleared the room after the second song. The few who stuck around knew that these guys (who had just released the first record, Say What You Will . . .") were destined for big things.

6. Beat Farmers, St. John's University, May 1985. Had the distinct pleasure of engaging in an on-air burping contest with Country Dick Montana (RIP) during a pre-show radio interview, then enjoyed watching this crazy (and crazy good) band rip the roof off of the Warner Palestra during a rain-induced, indoor version of the annual Pine Stock festival. Great show, until Dick passed out.

5. The Replacements, Seventh Street Entry, forget when it was -- I thought 1984 (circa Let It Be), but I defer to the great Alonzo, who says 1985. Saw a couple of shows from the infamous five-night stand at the Entry. At THAT particular time, THIS was the greatest rock-and-roll band on the planet.

4. Paul Westerberg, Guthrie Theater, Summer 2004 (I think, or maybe 2003). A triumphant homecoming show by my musical hero from about the time he came out of self-imposed exile with the terrific Stereo/Mono records. Just St. Paul and an assortment of guitars (one of which did not survive an untimely collision with a Marshall half-stack). Exhilarating, riveting, poignant, and funny as hell.

3. Rock for Change concert, St. Paul, fall 2004. Politics had absolutely nothing to do with making this such a memorable show, except that the performers were obviously inspired and played with incredible passion. And what a group of performers -- Springsteen and the E Street Band, REM, John Fogarty, Bright Eyes, and Neil Bleeping Young. Mr. Young doing All Along the Watchtower with the E Street Band -- no comment required on that one. The All Star encores of Patti Smith's People Have the Power and Elvis Costello's/Nick Lowe's What's So Funny About Peace Love And Understanding were (at the risk of sounding like some misty-eyed lefty) incredibly moving and absolutely unforgettable.

2. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, St. Paul Civic Center, November 1978. My first big-time concert (I was 16). Small wonder that music became one of my life's passions. The best live performer I have ever seen, at the absolute top of his game. My ride to the show (we were a bunch of hicks from Central MN farm country) nearly abandoned me in St. Paul -- he gave me strict instructions to leave for the parking lot immediately after Born to Run, but I COULD NOT drag myself away from encore after encore, each successive one somehow better than the last. When the house lights came up for the Detroit Medley, I decided then and there to spend my life's savings on an electric guitar. They don't call him the Boss for nothing.

1. Rock Out Loud, Big Woods Elementary School, St. Michael, MN, May 2007. Rock Out Loud is my son Tommy's band (he's the drummer/singer). Undaunted by the fact that they did not actually know any songs, they somehow scammed an invitation to perform at their school's end-of-year talent show. With the assistance of their manager/roadie/sound-dude (that would be me), this bunch of fifth graders somehow did manage to learn an entire song, and then proceeded to blow the roof off of the school gymnasium with a scorching version of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues." The principal was astonished. Teachers whispered that it must have been lip-synched. Fifth grade girls screamed like it was David Cassidy, circa 1974. After the standing ovation and screams for an encore, the triumphant heroes gave 'em what they wanted, and played Summertime Blues. Again. It really was the only song they knew how to play. A true rock-star moment for Tommy, and a life-long memory for the old man.

Wow, Jeff L. thanks. Of course how could I forget Rock for Karl?! (sorry I lost track of you guys that night). Besides all you mentioned, Ed Ackerson and Paul Westerberg doing a version of Dead Flowers was a highlight for me.

Also I should not have skipped Wilco at Northrop last fall. That show didn't have a particular highlight as much as it was a excellent from top to bottom. Right now no one beats Wilco in concert. No one.

I'm pretty sure I was at that Metallica concert but I'd have to say my fave was George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars at First Avenue around 1995 or so. They played for four hours and only stopped because the First Ave sound techs cut them off so they could get us all to leave and close down for the night.

Man, I love Springsteen. He's the bomb!

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