Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Great Performances

Doug:  We've all been to a concert or four in our lives.  We've probably all watched television programs like The Midnight Special or Top of the Pops -- shoot, some among us may remember with clarity the days of the Ed Sullivan Show.  Today we want to reminisce on great musical performances, from any venue.

Doug:  I was in high school and college in the heyday of MTV, back when it was truly Music Television.  I recall being spellbound by most of the videos, but some of my favorites were the faux concert videos (such as Van Halen's "Panama") or the actual concert videos like Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me".  Prior to MTV, many of us saw musical performances on shows like the aforementioned Midnight Special, American Bandstand, Soul Train, or even Saturday Night Live.  Of course, in the Internet age some classic performances have truly come to the masses with artists' own websites and repositories like YouTube, etc.

Doug:  One of the things I guess I didn't realize as a kid (just me being unobservant) was that Dick Clark did not allow artists to perform live on American Bandstand.  Contrast this with the many wonderful live performances on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Below you'll find a couple of samples from the latter program.  So what are some great performances you've either seen or enjoyed live?  Who gave a great concert (that would be KISS, back in 1977 touring in support of the Love Gun album, which I saw at the Chicago Stadium), who was a tireless performer that really gave the audience their money's worth, and who are the artists that let their music speak for itself?  What were some favorite videos of yours in the 1980's?  Lastly, are there any great concert films you've loved?  In advance, our thanks!


Edo Bosnar said...

First, I have to say thanks for posting the Sly & the Family Stone video. That part when Sly and Rose run out and start dancing amidst an audience of what looks like mainly middle-aged men in suits and ties is priceless. That's one band I would have loved to have seen live.

Anyway, I think Santana puts on the best live show. I've been to about seven of his concerts over the course of my life - the best of those were three that I saw in Berkeley's Greek Theater. Carlos and his whole band always put their all into their shows.
Another band that really put everything into live shows, and often held marathon concerts, was the Grateful Dead. I remember catching two nights of a three-night set of concerts they held at the Shoreline Amphitheater (Mountain View, CA) back in the late '80s - each concert lasted well over three hours, and as far as I could tell, they didn't repeat any songs from one night to another. My favorite parts were when they would go into extended jam sessions, wherein the various band members, like Jerry Garcia on guitar or the drummers, would play really intricate solo pieces.

As for great concert films, I guess I'll be unoriginal and say Woodstock - especially love the parts featuring Santana (obviously) and Sly & the Family Stone (also obviously) and Ten Years After. And of course, the unforgettable Jimi Hendrix...

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense movie.

tom said...

Like others, for a long time I relied on shows like Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert for video of my favorite artists. Musical guests on Saturday Night Live and Fridays were always a treat too.

Growing up near Detroit in the late 1970's early '80s I had the opportunity to see a lot of great concerts: Talking Heads, Springsteen (River tour), Santana (twice!), The Who (1979), King Crimson, Rush more times than I can count.

One of my top give concerts was a totally unexpected one. We saw Greg Kihn in 1979, he played in an old movie theater, maybe sat 1200 people. We went because we liked his cover of "Roadrunner" which was getting local airplay and tickets were like $5 (this was pre-Jeopardy stardom). Elton John and The Kinks were playing a couple other venues that weekend, and there were maybe 100 people at the Kihn concert. He played like his life depended on it, I remember thinking "This is like people talking about the old Springsteen shows when he played clubs and small theaters." He did multiple encores, sat on the edge of the stage and talked with the audience, took requests, just one of those magic rock and roll nights.

Concert films: Stop Making Sense is still one of the best. Not strictly a concert film, but The Who documentary "The Kids Are Alright" is my favorite rock documentary/performance a compilation. A textbook on how they should be done.

Doug said...

Tom --

Great mention of SNL and Fridays (remember Michael Ricards on Fridays, doing that character called "Dick", that was basically a template for Kramer?). I particularly recall some really nice performances by Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.


Doug said...

Obviously that should have said "Michael Richards".


david_b said...

Oh, Michael Richards was great as Dick on 'Fridays' (I STILL have that crush on Melanie Chartoff..).

Concerts..? 'Austin City Limits' has always had an impressive line-up of acts throughout the years. One impressive lad was Julian Lennon on his first US tour ('85..?).. I saw him at Summerfest here in Milwaukee and he had so much hi-energy and natural groove, it was incredible. Awesome rhythm section as well.

I liked seeing Paul Simon during his 'Graceland' tour, remembering most tickets in the '80s were only $5-10 (I still have the ticket stubs..).

Non-musically, Rodney Dangerfield back in '82 was THE BEST show.., again only $5.

A fun note, I saw McCartney with Linda back in '90 in Frankfurt, Germany, indoors, I was only 5ft away from center stage. Macca was big into his cute Elvis mannerisms and he wiped his neck with a towel and I caught it. Then I thought, 'Who's gonna believe me when I tell 'em it's Paul's sweat since I probably wouldn't get it autographed or anything..?' Still cool.

Karen said...

I haven't been to a concert since I saw Robert Plant at the Paramount in Oakland in 2005 (great show, lots of Led Zep covers!) but let me ask folks this: what the is up with ticket prices today? The last few times I was interested in going to shows the ticket prices seemed outrageous. For example, just a week ago, I saw that the B52s and Go-Gos were going to be playing at a local casino/resort and went online to check for tickets. They were nearly sold out but still had main floor tickets -at $280 a seat!I expect prices like that for a heavy hitter but for what is essentially a nostalgia show? As you might assume, the only B52s I'll be listening to are on my iPhone.

david_b said...

ACTUALLY.., one correction. Before checking, I was actually remembering Richards as the 'battle boy' or whatever 'obnoxious child' skit he'd be in..:


MUCH better than SNL for a few years there, until Dick Ebersol came in with Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo, a killer combination.

david_b said...

Karen, 'ticket prices' might qualify for a wholly separate column, or for our 'soon-to-be-regular' Gripe column..

Just food for thought.

Or it does go hand-in-hand with today's topic as well.

I saw the Stones during their 'Bigger Bang' tour. I believe my rafter tickets were $95 each. My wife had me scrapbook some early times of my existance, which I didn't want to do until I realized I could do extensive journaling along side (no cutesy stickers or anything..), and I saved all the stubs from the early '80s.

My Macca ticket from Germany in '90 was around $50 I believe, general admission, but since I was FIRST in line, I was front row. It was awesome. I miss Linda so much.

J.A. Morris said...

Long post, sorry:
I've seen a bunch of concerts over the years. The first "real" concert I saw was Men At Work. They were lots of fun, a great live act, Colin Hay and the late Greg Ham were very funny in between songs. I'll never forget the sound of the crowd erupting when Ham played the opening notes of 'Who Can It Be Now'.

I've seen Springsteen a few times and he's never disappointed. I only wished I'd seen him when he was younger. My city (Richmond) was the first non-Jersey place where Springsteen built a fanbase, so when he plays here he always acknowledges his Richmond "roots".

More recently, I saw the White Stripes in 2005. Most 2-piece bands tour with back-up musicians. Not the White Stripes. Jack & Meg were all alone up there and they played a great, rockin' show. Lucky for me, this concert was broadcast on NPR (and burned to a CD)so I can listen to it whenever I want to remember that show.

But the 2 best concerts of all time for me:
1.Saw REM play an acoustic show in a small theater in 1991 in Charleston,WV. This show was being broadcast live on the show Moutain Stage. This was right after 'Losing My Religion' was released and they only played a handful of concerts that year. I knew I was lucky to see that show. Because it was Mountain Stage, tickets were only about $15.00, purchased at the local National Record Mart.

2.Sleater-Kinney, DC, 2000. Three women rocked harder than any guy-band I've seen. Carrie Brownstein has become famous for acting in 'Portlandia', but she was playing & dancing like Pete Townshend that night. The other 2 band members were equally great. I saw them 3 more times, but that '00 show was the best.

As for concert movies, I'll go with obvious choices:Woodstock, followed by 'Stop Making Sense'. And George Harrison & Friends' 'Concert For Bangla Desh' is also recommended.

Anonymous said...

I agree with david_b about Melanie Chartoff...I always had a thing for her too! As for concert films, what about Last Waltz? It's been a while since I've seen it, but The Band had some really good songs, and some cool guest stars too.

Mike W.

J.A. Morris said...

Speaking of Melanie Chartoff (is there any other blog where one can type that phrase?):
I was watching an episode of 'Challenge of the Superfriends' and was surprised to see her name in the voice actor credits. I never knew that until now.
Related:Fridays will soon be released on dvd:

david_b said...

Aside from the quickly-developing 'Melanie Chartoff Appreciation Society', LOVE the new Peanuts banner on top.

Anonymous said...

I saw Blue Oyster Cult back in the 80's and they blew the doors off. Best concert I ever saw. When they ripped into "Black Blade"...
Buck Dharma was popping guitar strings he was playing so fast. And there was Eric Bloom, laughing maniacally from behind his mirrored sunglasses on "Flaming Telepaths."
My favorite concert DVD is the Who, at the Isle of Wight. Unbelievable. Almost a religious experience, really.

Graham said...

The best concert I ever attended was a Neville Brothers/Santana double bill in New Orleans in 1989 at JazzFest. The Nevilles are always in the zone when they play in New Orleans and they were incredible that night. Santana followed them and that was the fastest two hours ever...I wanted to hear more. He was just awesome.

The best I've seen otherwise was a performance by the Derek Trucks Band on the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 DVD. They covered Derek & the Dominos' "Any Day," with Susan Tedeschi on backing vocals and Derek Trucks playing an incredible solo. I hope I get to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band someday.

Redartz said...

Saw Depeche Mode at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago about 1985. Incredible show, like being surrounded by a wall of sound and color. Everyone was on their feet dancing; quite an accomplishment as there was hardly room to move...

Fred W. Hill said...

A few concert highlights I've been to are seeing R.E.M. in Mountain View, CA, in 1989, just a few days after the big earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area that year; and in more recent years, Ani DiFranco, John Fogerty, Bad Company, and, in 2011, the Monkees (Dolenz, Tork & Jones).

Simon B said...

I've seen so many great bands that it's hard to pick faves, but I'll have a go...

I've seen Bruce Springsteen 5 times since the E Street Band reformed in 1999 and he's been awesome every time. Bruce and the band give 100% every time they play and they have such an amazing back catalogue of songs to draw on. The highlight for me was probably on the "Rising" tour when they played an almost unbearably poignant version of post-9/11 song Empty Sky at London's Crystal Palace, as jets from Gatwick Airport thundered above us...

From a more Metal perspective, I've seen some incredible shows from Metallica ( the And Justice For All tour ), Faith No More ( playing to about 50 people before they were mega-stars ) and the legendary Thin Lizzy.

Also, loads of great indie / Punk bands like Pixies, The Strokes, Primal Scream, Sex Pistols, The Damned, Sugar, the Dandy Warhols, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, The Cure, Adam Ant, Big Audio Dynamite... the list goes on...

As for concert movies, I'll add my vote for The Last Waltz. A beautifully made tribute to The Band with a stellar guest line-up - Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters etc. etc. It really is a classic.

Joseph said...

(another great topic - i'll try to keep my comments brief)

J.A. - I saw Sleater-Kinney in Portland 2003 and I'd certainly put it in my top five concerts of all time. Loud, energetic, incredible.

I was lucky enough to see the Who perform Tommy in L.A. 1989. I think i had chills for hours afterwards. My favorite band playing one of my favorite albums in a small venue (for L.A., anyway).

Arcade Fire, Portland, 2005. Not among my very favorite bands, but this was a mind blowing show. Completely surreal.

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