Prompted by a friend who listed the greatest concert experiences of his life, here are mine:
- allman brothers at great woods in 1992 or 3, when I was 13... not a band i knew well, but such a tour de force performance that something special happened in the crowd. the first time i felt that.
- wilco a few years ago at prospect park bandshell -- it was raining and that added to the magic. they just kept going and going and they always had one more flavor of music to explore.
- the liza colby sound, an nyc funk/rock/r&b band with a phenomenal frontwoman (who did music for my wife's short film), last year at berlin in LES, just days after their amazing guitarist died... like 50 people crammed into a tiny space, just feet from the band, as they poured their hearts out.
- some dj whose name of course i can't remember, at burning man last year, inside a giant art car shaped like a brain that had a dancefloor, but then you could climb through the structure up on top of it, feeling like a mile above the ground, and you had to like lock your feet into place and dance with the rest of your body and trust that you wouldn't fall off... maybe my greatest time dancing ever
- the pixies reunion tour circa maybe 2008... in camden and hammerstein ballroom. just such a sense of simultaneous experience in the crowd. (also seen the breeders and frank black separately but not quite the same feeling)
- rock the bells in 2008 at jones beach -- mos def and the tribe reunion were huge disappointments, but the wu tang clan and redman were phenomenal (they've been 100% tight and prepared both times i've seen them) and nas headlined and killed it, with jayz coming out for a song...
- faith no more somewhere on lansdowne st. (boston) around 1995... getting a fantastic show when seeing a band I don't really know is one of my favorite things. they were amazing, and it's obvious in retrospect from that experience that mike patton would go on to be in like 12 different successful bands, the guy is a force of nature. (eg his collaboration with dan the automator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQf2diR8oB0 )
- prince at msg in 2004... i had cancer and threw up 3 times in the bathroom but raced back each time because i didn't want to miss a thing. i can believe the claim to be the greatest performer of all time.
- ratatat at webster hall in maybe 2003, something of a mystery to me because they were absolutely incredible, and their music sounded nothing at all like their records, and i'm still not positive i didn't hallucinate this.
- nine inch nails in 1995 i think, the last concert at the old boston garden, where trent reznor egged the crowd on and got people to start tearing the seats out... it felt intense and unpredictable and crazy.
- arcade fire at msg in maybe 2009 - their anthemic stuff just fit so well, and it really felt like a gigantic singalong
- tom ze (brazilian musician who i gather is something of a frank zappa-type prankster-absurdist, maybe bruno could place him much better!) at alice tully around 2012... just such an unpredictable and magnetic presence. Seeing him live was such a joy... he fucked with the audience so much, interrupted songs, switched instruments with people, it was like the backup singers were tolerating this crazy toddler. and at one point made NYC subway announcements into the lyrics of a whole impromptu song. He couldn't sit still. Vitality was just pouring out of him. It's still this model for me of how to be old and hold on fiercely to life.
- regina spektor at carnegie hall in maybe 2010... just absolutely commanded the audience.
- arlo guthrie around 1996 at sanders/memorial hall in cambridge, felt mournful like the ending of his generation... of course 20 years later he's still at it! maybe the most anyone has ever milked one album they made 40 years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Y-x4YgUz4
- phillip glass's koyanasqatsi (sp?) performed live at lincoln center in maybe 2011, immersive and personal and terrifying and impossibly beautiful
(and i won't include musicals, but i'll mention one opera, which i think qualifies more as music than theater...)
- john adams's nixon in china at the met around 2012, made me feel something powerful at an opera for the first time... such a new and unpredictable musical experience