A friend of mine at work is always categorizing things as his "Top 5", "Top 10", "Top 50" – mostly when we're talking music or movies. We get into debates about them and it's fun. A few weeks ago I looked for my book of music tickets (of concerts I've been to) because I had a few more to add to it. As I flipped through all the performances I've been to I started a pile of my favorites. I then narrowed it down to my Top 10 (which wasn't easy to do). Here they are...
I was too young to go to a KISS show during their heyday in the '70s, and granted, back then I liked them more for their makeup and costumes than their music. But by the time I was in junior high school I started appreciating the music, big time. But by then Ace and Peter were long gone and KISS ditched the makeup and costumes. I never dreamed I would ever see the original lineup live, let alone in full makeup and costumes. But it happened and it was AWESOME!
For some this is an odd choice because many people today have not heard of Larry Graham & Graham Central Station. But you all know Larry because you've all heard Sly and the Family Stone and he was their bassist. He's also the guy that invented the slap style of playing the bass. Back in the early to mid-'90s I went through my Funk phase and Graham Central Station was at the top of the list (along with Parliament/Funkadelic). This reunion show was a big enough deal that Prince was in the house. In fact, he walked right past me, came up to about my mid-chest...and he had heels on! Larry Graham & Graham Central Station put on a funking good show.
Beck and Evel Knievel live, April 1st. Sounds like an April Fools joke, but it' wasn't. Mellow Gold was only a month old when Beck came to NYC to open for Evel. Before playing his first note, Beck took the stage smashing his guitar to pieces as his band violently attacked their instruments creating a bed of noise. His set was then a mix of Mellow Gold songs plus some other guitar heavy songs Beck had written prior to Mellow Gold. I miss that version of Beck. After his set a screen lowered and they projected a montage of Evel Knievel's greatest jumps and crashes. The screen raised and there was Evel Knievel, my childhood hero, wearing a red, white and blue leather suit, complete with cape. He stood at a podium, gave a speech and fielded some questions. Great night.
Remember when I said I went through a Funk phase? Well this was the show that kickstarted it. I first heard of P-Funk as a kid when I was thumbing through a KISS magazine put out by Creem (which I still own). The cover subhead read "KISS vs. P-Funk: Whose Show Is Bigger?" and there was a one page article on them. Many years later, in 1993, a friend said I had to go with her to see George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars. She'd seen them a number of times and said they were a blast so – remembering the Creem article and how wacky they looked – I went to The Ritz in Manhattan to see them. The show started at midnight and they played for four hours straight. The next day my P-Funk quest started.
Here's another band that I was too young to see in their prime. By the time I heard their music – in 7th grade – they were already broken up (at least the lineup with Ozzy). They're one of my Top 5 bands (can I put a Top within a Top list?). So seeing them live was a dream come true, even though Bill Ward (the original drummer) wasn't a part of it. Ozzy can't quite hit the notes he used to but Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler played flawlessly.
Lollapalooza shows were always a lot of fun. I went to the first one in '91, and the ones in '92, '94 and '95 (I skipped '93 because I didn't like the lineup). My favorite was '94 mainly because of the Beastie Boys and Smashing Pumpkins. George Clinton & P-Funk All-Stars (favorite show #4 on my list) also played but by that time their shows started to decline (P-Funk is already a large band, there's no need to bring in outsider "guest singers" and giving them the spotlight – especially when they're a young blonde white girl). But the Beastie Boys were great. For me their peak was their albums Check Your Head and Ill Communication, and they had just released the latter. They played their mix of rap, hardcore and funk jams (with the help of Money Mark and DJ Hurricane). Then the Smashing Pumpkins rocked the stage. They were still touring the Siamese Dream album (their peak for me). Billy Corgan is one of my favorite guitarists. I went both days, both great.
The Monkees were the first band ever on my radar. As a kid I loved their television show and my mom got me their first two albums (which I still own, one of which was signed by Davy Jones when I worked with him – but that's a different story). I also raised my kids to be Monkees fans. So when I heard they were touring I had to take the family. Our seats were great, seven rows from center stage (although the people in front of my mom – she went too – stood the whole time, blocking her view). This particular Monkees tour was quite special in that Michael Nesmith was participating. He's always been the hold-out when it comes to Monkees reunions. He, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork performed 29 songs spanning their short-lived time as a band – including lots of deep cuts you normally don't hear. Unfortunately, there was one key thing missing, Davy Jones. He passed away in February of 2012. But Davy was there in spirit and was represented in videoclips. In fact, the most emotional moment of the night came toward the end, when the trio and a randomly chosen audience member led the crowd in a massive singalong to Davy's hit, “Daydream Believer.”
This is the first show I went to with friends (I'm not counting the time my parents took me to see Sha Na Na). The Bad Brains were my favorite hardcore band (still are), so I was there to see them. I liked the Circle Jerks but I never got into them as much as the other guys I went to the show with. Also on the bill was Living Colour, although they were billed as Vernon Reids' Living Colour. This was a year before they hit it big with "Cult of Personality". The Bad Brains were intense. I had fun slam dancing (before it was called moshing), riding the crowd, and I even dove off the stage once. I forget how we got into the city but I remember going home we all piled into my friends brothers car – way too many of us. Someone was sitting on my lap the whole trip and my leg fell asleep so bad that when I tried to get out of the car I just fell over because I couldn't feel it. Good times.
What better way to spend New Years Eve than with the Flaming Lips? Their shows are exactly like the countdown – confetti, costumes, joyous jubilation. Kim and I had seats on the floor close enough to the stage so it was extra fun when the Lips released the jumbo-sized beach balls into the crowd. Kim was about four months pregnant with Casey and he was dancing around in her belly as the Flaming Lips performed. For some reason, the Lips were the opening act. Wilco were the headliners. Not an easy task following a Flaming Lips performance. I'm not really a Wilco fan but I enjoyed the show because guitarist Nels Cline recently joined the band. I knew Nels from the experimental music scene I followed in the late '90s/early '00s. He gave them a different edge. Both bands took the stage to bring in the new year. Happy New Year!
I went to this show with my friend Jeremy (the "Top" guy I mentioned at the top of this post). Metallica is one of my favorite bands, but I had only seen them once before. I almost saw them open for Ozzy in '86 but that show sold out just as we got to the stadium. I had also never seen Slayer live, even though I've been a fan since '85. So that was a treat. I used to be an Anthrax fan in the mid-'80s, not so much now, but it was still good to see them live. Same goes for Megadeth. But it was Slayer and Metallica that made this show special for me. Both put on great shows. (I've since seen Slayer again live. Also great.)
Like I said above, it wasn't easy narrowing down my Top 10 Concerts, I've been to so many. Ask me again a month from now and the list may change.
Editors Note: I wrote the above post a couple of weeks ago when I was in LA on business. I was waiting till I got back to publish it because I was going to share it with my friend Jeremy, who was the inspiration for the post (and mentioned in Top Concert #10). Unfortunately, when I got back to the office on Monday we got word that Jeremy was rushed to the hospital the day before. The report was that he had bacteria or an infection on his brain, but the doctors weren't quite sure what it was. Two days later Jeremy passed away. He was only 35. He's survived by his wife and beautiful 3 year old twin daughters. He was a very good friend who I looked forward to talking to everyday at the office. I miss him already. RIP Jeremy Yuricek.