I was a precocious concert-goer, beginning with Shaun Cassidy at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. In the early years, I went with my parents. Later, I latched on to “grown-ups” like my guitar teachers, who could put up with a kid or two in exchange for a free ticket. And, eventually, I could drive myself. Here’s an annotated list of some of the best concerts I’ve ever been to:
Talking Heads at the Pantages Theater on the Stop Making Sense tour. You can make out my sleeve in the movie! But seriously, this was Talking Heads at their absolute peak, and the stage production was so unusual at the time.
Tom Waits at the Beacon Theater on the Mule Variations tour. The combination of sheer novelty – he’s the ultimate showman, but he rarely performs – and the greatness of Mule Variations was enough to put this one over the top.
Peter Case at McCabe’s – where I also took guitar lessons – in the summer if 1989, in the wake of the Blue Guitar album. He was the first rock guy to unplug, and he showed me something completely new that actually altered the direction of my life.
Peter Himmelman at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, a couple of different times. The first time, it was just shocking to discover that someone was doing what he does. The second time, he had the whole crowd dancing a hora.
Jesse Winchester at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in the mid-late 1990s. He held 10,000 people rapt with his voice and a nylon-stringed guitar. While sitting in a chair! I had a chance to talk to him in the porta-potty line, but couldn’t think of anything to say.
Red House Painters at some venue in Paris after the “rollercoaster” record. I’d just discovered their unique sound and was in a foreign country. Mysterious and cool…
The Kinks at The Forum on the Give the People What They Want tour. This was my first real rock concert and an introduction to spectacle of that nature. It goes without saying that I wore the t-shirt out.
The US Festival, which I attended both years. That’s a significant claim to fame in certain circles! I remember October-era Bono climbing the scaffolding, and seeing someone drop acid for the first time.