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Can't Get It 

   Outta My Head


                 A Baby Boomer


                           Muses on The Music

My Favorite Concerts, Part II

This week’s blog completes the Top 10 of the rock concerts I have attended. Appended after the Top 6 are the notes, listed in chronological order, I wrote about the shows that didn’t make the cut.

No. 6


Nov. 13, 1974

Dane County Coliseum, Madison, Wis.

This was the third stop on the Relayer tour, the concert occurring about a month before the album of that name was released in the U.S, and shortly after its U.K. debut; only six months earlier, Rick Wakeman — the band’s keyboardist on the three preceding albums — had quit Yes.

The setlist included all three cuts from Relayer, including the side-long epic “The Gates of Delirium” — stuff that I was unfamiliar with at that time, and remain so to this day (a situation I may remedy soon). The band also played all three cuts from Close to the Edge, the title tune meaning the concert included two 20-minute-plus songs, plus their good stuff from The Yes Album and Fragile.

So there was lots of music I liked, and a stage set that was eye-popping — a giant beetle that opened up to reveal Wakeman-replacement Patrick Moraz’s keyboard kit. But the music was played at thresthold-of-pain levels, which in the acoustic environment of the concrete Great Dane was not a good thing. The only concert in my experience that compared in volume was a show by the Christian rock band Mercy Me.

No. 5


June 30, 2010

Minneapolis, Minn.

Carlos has been an amazing musician for half a century, and he didn’t let the audience down that night. Some of his later music, with which I wasn’t familiar, but lots of the stuff I like (“Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” “Jingo,” “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts” and others), and some surprises (“Sunshine of Your Love”?) Tight musicianship, intricate rhythms — and a brief political pitch. (Seems Carlos didn’t like what Pres. Obama was doing at that point, and described him as “like Bush with a tan” or something to that effect!)

Santana’s opening act that night was Steve Winwood — and I asked myself then, and again when he opened for Steely Dan in July 2016, why isn’t this guy headlining his own shows? An excellent musician, with lots of great music in his oeuvre; maybe he just doesn’t want the hassles of being the main act.

No. 4

Roger Waters, The Wall

Oct. 27, 2010

Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.

An amazing stage presentation and concert experience. But it was pretty much a note-for-note recitation of the album, so there was a degree of concert spontaneity lacking, and nothing from Waters’ and Pink Floyd’s other albums. And the rumor floating around in the run-up to the show — that David Gilmour would bury the hatchet, pick up the axe and join his at-times-estranged former bandmate, at least for the “Comfortably Numb” guitar solo — never materialized. They were two high-priced tickets, a birthday present from my lady; my “date” was an old cab-driving buddy, with whom it was great to have a pre-concert dinner.

No. 3

Jimi Hendrix

May 2, 1970

Dane County Coliseum, Madison, Wis.

Hendrix died four and a half months after this show, and played only 27 concerts during that time. And the electric guitar virtuoso — although at the time the highest-paid performer in rock music — was already in a crisis stage of his too-short career; the Band of Gypsies, the group that had replaced his original band, had broken up barely three months earlier. The ensemble that took the stage that night was a mixture of the Experience and the Gypsies. as for the concert experience, there were extenuating circumstances, for me and also for many in the audience.

The show took place in the midst of the demonstrations that broke out following the Cambodian Offensive of the Vietnam War, and many of those attending had to run a gauntlet of National Guard troops and law enforcement officers to get to the Not-so-Great Dane. My significant other and I had obstructed view seats in the wings, the result of getting in on a press pass from the local underground newspaper.

Still, seeing one of the inconic Makers of The Music, even from that angle, was a, no pun intended, Experience; he put on a great show, playing his signature version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” a couple BoG songs and Experience classics like “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.” And the warm-up acts included Oz, one of the top bands in the Madison area at the time.

No. 2

Steely Dan

July 16, 2016


Milwaukee, Wis.

This was a bucket-list item for me, a Dan fan of 45 years or so, and I blogged about this concert soon after we attended it. Sometimes it’s hard for these bands to live up to their best, but Fagen, Becker and their hired guns did not disappoint: incredibly tight musicianship, a tour through their oeuvre that hit the highs but also visited some of the lesser known. My only criticism was that they didn’t do any numbers from their “comeback,” post-2000 albums, which have become favorites, especially Two Against Nature.

No. 1

Pink Floyd

March 4, 1973

Dane County Coliseum, Madison, Wis.

A mind-blowing experience, from the thick marijuana haze in the lobby to the final encore, “One of These Days,” from Meddle. This show was past the halfway point in the band’s 16-month-long Dark Side of the Moon tour, but the first concert after the March 1 release of the iconic album of the same name. The band played the album in its entirety, the concert opened with the extended piece “Echoes,” also from Meddle, and the light show — for its time — was state-of-the-art. They did something with “Careful with that Axe, Eugene” that was particularly mind-blowing — involving, as I recall, a large quantity of flash powder in a darkened, quieted stadium — although I can’t find anyone who remembers it the same way I do.

REO Speedwagon/Iron Butterfly

March/April 1969

Alpine Valley, East Troy, Wis.

Can find no record of this concert, in tour records for either band. (REO’s list shows a lot of bars, frat houses, etc., back then.) We had to sit on the concrete floor of a building on this southern Wisconsin ski resort, and WLS-AM DJ Larry Lujack — hysterically funny as the MC — reminded what you get from sitting on cold, hard surfaces. (Which, come to think of it, I did end up getting, and had surgically repaired.)

IB had considered out front with the album-side-long “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” the previous year, the cutting edge of psychedelic rock, but many bands had passed them by as of spring 1969. The band took the lumbering 17-minute song and stretched it out to — not sure, but it seemed to go on forever; Ron Bushy’s drum solo, too long in the original, dragged on for perhaps 15 minutes. At one point, between songs, one of the band members said, “I don’t smell anything going on out there.” We didn’t know what he was talking about at that point.

We were favorably impressed by REO, especially considering that they came from an hour’s drive away or so, and that we’d never heard of them. They, of course, turned into an pop FM-hit monster a few years later.

Blood Sweat & Tears

April 1969

Dane County Colisseum, Madison, Wis.

Another concert for which I can’t find a record online, but I don’t think I just imagined going to it.BST was trending big at that time — they had three No. 2 hits that spring and summer, all from an album that topped the LP charts. Either this, or the Iron Butterfly show, was the first rock concert I ever attended. But it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on me; I was trending toward harder rock at that time, I think.

James Taylor

Oct. 10, 1971

University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse, Madison, Wis.

This concert didn’t make much of an impression on me — which I could blame on the fact that I had something else on my mind at the time, specifically the lady who took me to it. But reading a contemporaneous concert review, I realized it was more likely that Sweet Baby James’s style and material didn’t work well in a large concert setting, particularly in the cavernous Fieldhouse (see entry about the Zappa/Mothers concert in last week’s post).

The most memorable moments I can recall were the times when the audience called out for Taylor’s signature song from his early career, “Fire and Rain.” But he wouldn’t deign to perform that very personal number — it references the suicide of a childhood friend, and the demise of his first band — in concert for a couple decades, a fact alluded to in a much later recording.

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