I was lucky enough to grow up in the late '60s and early '70s--the glory years of rock music. I saw many great shows with many unforgettable memories to go with them. Vintage Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull and so many more that I've forgotten some of them. Probably the most memorable was seeing YES play in my home town of DeLand, Florida on the Stetson University campus in 1971. The venue was called The Pit--a sinkhole on fraternity row with a wooden stage at the bottom. Several thousand people turned out along the slopes to hear the band. Rick Wakeman had just joined and "Roundabout" had not yet been released. It was great to see a band about to take off for international stardom in our sleepy, little town. They promised to come back, but they became so big they never did.
I'd have to go back in time and say that the most memorable concert would have to be seeing the Phil Collins and Genesis. The concert was outside, at a Phoenix amphiteatre, and even the oven-like heat didn't keep down the crowd. The lights, the music, and the stage presence couldn't be beat.
I recall a performance of the Tales of Hoffman at Chicago's Lyric Opera in the mid 80's which had the soprano Ruth Welting playing Olympia the mechanical doll. As she sung her main aria there was something so extraordinary, something so wonderful in her performance that you almost stopped breathing just to take it all in. It seemed note perfect, yet it also filled with nuance, warmth and feeling. There was a sense of both artist and audience sharing some wonderful connection. When she was done the whole house eruptded in the most thuderous applause I ever heard in the opera house. She graced us with a repeat performance of her aria.
I haven't really been to many music concerts, but I have had two particularly moving experiences at live performances.
One is the first time I saw Les Miserables. We were in a glorious old London theatre, and I'm embarrassed to say I knew very little about the story going into the show. But as I sat and watched, I was mesmerized by the glorious music and heartbreaking story of redemption and loss and love. I've seen it many times since, and it still stirs something in me that I can't explain except to say I feel it to my core.
On a much less sublime note, I'll never forget seeing Stomp! This production is simply stunning to all my senses. I've taken students, family, and friends with me; they have all been moved as I have by the sheer energy and brilliance of the show.
I think it's hard not to be moved by any live performance if the performer(s) display passion. Something in us connects with that on whatever level, and we are changed for having been part of the performance.
I feel as though this is going to reveal just how young I am, but my most memorable live performance was a Green Day concert. I've seen them over ten times (and I strongly recommend seeing the Broadway musical "American Idiot." It almost was my post for this!) About 2 years ago I saw Green Day in Pittsburgh. I traveled about 500 miles to see them because they were not coming near me. It was lat minute and rushed, and I don't do spontaneous well. We got the show, they played every song I wanted to hear. Most of it was older stuff, classics from Dookie, Insomniac, and Kerplunk, with a few new tunes from AI and 21st Century in there as well. But what made this night so amazing was when a little boy on this guy's shoulders held up a sign that said "Please Play JAR." "J.A.R" is by far my favorite song in the world. I have played for inspiration for almost every difficult situation in my life and not to mention part of it was my senior quote in high school. For the 14 times I have seen this band play live for the past 12 years, I have never seen them perform "J.A.R" live, and that night they did. I don't know if it was planned in their set list (although I had friends in California see the same tour and say they did not play it) or if it was because of that little boy, but that was the best concert ever because that song means so much to me, and I know it means a lot to Green Day. I tear up thinking about how amazing I felt during that song.
The Polyphonic Spree, Austin City Limits, 2003.
I'd never even heard of them before. It was like weird-cult-worship music and impossible not to get sucked in.
I've been a fan ever since. I sort of have this dream of one day being on stage with them in a choir robe with a tambourine.
One of the more memorable concerts I've attended was a Ryan Adams concert in Chicago in 2003. The band played the very same song five times in a row: once as a country song, once as a punk song, once as a pop song, once as though it had been written and sung by Cookie Monster, and finally as the song appeared on the album. It really showed the range and abilities of the musicians on stage and also the quality of the songwriting.
I was lucky enough to see Robert Goulet play King Arthur in "Camelot." It was magical! Many of the most memorable live performances I've seen, though, were by unknown (at least then) artists. I went to Belmont College (now University), which is renowned for its music education. I got to see young actors and singers and musicians perform, and many of those performances will be in my memory forever.
Metallica was one of the best ones because it was back in '92 and the end of the hard rock/beginning alternative era. I truly feel that it was "the last rock concert" I really attended. Music, ever since then, looks like processed cheese, and the artists look like kids I would have babysat for back in the day.
The real essence of good rock and roll has been dead for a while, but I am happy I had one last chance to experience it.
Aida performed in Verona in 1997. It was my first opera and I had very little experience of the music before the event. I was enthralled by the spectacle, sound, emotion and atmosphere. I have never had an experience like it before or since. It does not matter if it is not 'your' type of music - the intensity is captivating.
This past year I went to an El Dive concert. I received the tickets for my birthday and had barely heard of the group before that. I was not very excited, but I went. It turned out to be the best concert I have ever gone to. Their harmony was beautiful and the women were going crazy. It was a lot of fun.
I do believe Elvis trumps all the other music mentioned (The Coughs???!!!). Soooooo glad to have grown up in the '60s and '70s.
ELVIS. My husband was a fanatic for Elvis--still is--, having listened to his old music and his newer after his comeback. When Elvis came to Chicago, I had to wait in line for the longest time I have ever waited: seven and a half hours! I only did this out of love and because I did not want to see a grown man cry when I had to tell him I did not procure any tickets. For me, at that time, missing Elvis would not have been too disappointing.
However, I must say that I have never experienced such an aura of electricity from any other performer than I have seen (and we have gone to many great concerts--rock and roll, jazz, blues, symphonies, etc. with big, big names performing)
While we waited for Elvis to come out, the Colonel had all his pictures, etc. being distributed for sale. Suddenly, without warning, a trembling silence swept over the huge crowd in Chicago. People looked at each other with wonder as they felt Elvis before he became visible. What unbelievable charisma! It was amazing, and I was an unbeliever, too. (My husband yelled, "Oh my god, there he is!!!!")
This electricity that Elvis had, the ability to hold an audience in his hands, and touch their souls with his gloriously rich voice that communicated so much emotion was what made him truly "the King." We saw him one more time shortly before his death in another state, and he still generated those vibes. He is truly a legend.
Memorable-"Are you kidding me?" (as they say in Chicago.)
Second to him: Ray Charles. Versatile and poignant, the man had hundreds of people weeping when he sang "I'm So Blue" with that voice of tears and cries itself. What talent! What soul!
1999 was the last time I was in Hawaii. I was at a hotel bar/restaurant with live music. It was a guy called Ledward Kaapana (relatively famous in Hawaii) who was related to a former student of mine (who was with me). The power went out and the band and my student just hung around playing and singing. A couple of wives or girlfriends were dancing hula... It was like a backyard jam session (kanikapila, as it's called in Hawaii) except with professional quality musicians...
The Twelfth Night, Royal Shakespeare Company, Freud Theatre at UCLA.
They performed an "original" production-all men, everything proper for the time period: costumes, instruments, food, props, etc. They brought the audience in through the house, but used downstage as their dressing room. The entire audience got to see how they would go about producing authentic makeup, wigs, etc. The audience sat on the stage instead of in the house, in a kind of stadium seating, looking down on the action. Also, as house manager that night, I got to seat Tom Hanks and family. Pretty cool.
On a different note, as far as music goes, it's a toss-up between the Magnetic Fields at the E-Bell theatre in LA, and the Coughs at the Il Corral in LA. The Magnetic Fields play a stripped down, all acoustic show, with the most incredible sound. Only concert I've ever been to where the speakers didn't blow out my eardrums. The Coughs....well, the "Il Corral" is someone's house with a one-room stage, the lead singer (or screamer, more like it) was wearing coveralls with nothing underneath, there was a saxophonist who was running through the crowd & laying on the ground playing at one point, the drummer was beating metal trashcans, people were swinging back & forth on a rope hanging from the middle of the ceiling...and it was the most surreal experience I've ever had at a show.