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I would have to say that the best live concert I've ever seen was Pavement in 2010 in Austin. I dunno if they are as good live now as they were back in the day, but this concert was incredible. Also, Malkmus was wearing a Times New Viking t-shirt, which made me very happy, because that is one of if not my favorite band.
What is the best band/artist you have ever seen play live?
I have to put two as my number one, for being so different from each other yet both so blissful that I forgot where I was, even while completely sober. There were a few shows I was high during, and they were also bliss, but assuming part of that were the drugs, I can't include them. Also, both of these concerts are notable for having an aspect that COULD have ruined the experience, but didn't on the strength of the performance.
1a. Roger Waters, In the Flesh 2000. Having the rights to most Pink Floyd songs meant that this was basically the closest thing to a Pink Floyd concert I will ever go to, and it was pretty close to one. He hired top notch musicians and basically taught them to play PF tunes the way the band itself would've played them. 20 minute prog rock grooves, 10 minute guitar solos (even better than Gilmour would've played them), 3+ hour set, lasers... the whole nine yards. Oh, and the sound system was clear as glass. Possible ruin: it was a rainy night, and the venue was one of those with an open lawn area behind the seats, and yep, that area was all we could find tickets for. I've seen other shows there and you never know about that lawn area... the sound quality can really suffer, and it can get cold, and you're at the mercy of rain, and you're so far away from the stage. But that's how good Waters' sound system was, and the performance was, that I forgot it was sprinkling or that I could barely see him.
1b. Erykah Badu, last year. Her set began with a single DJ on stage with a computer and some turntables, mixing some sick beats for about 15 minutes, obviously building up to something. I wasn't sure if this was another opening act or part of the main show, and I found out when Erykah and the rest of the musicians came out in the middle of the DJing and seamlessly began their first tune. At that point I knew this was gonna be special. And it lived up to that beginning. Her band was tight as a knot, going from old school funk to prog rock to jazz to hip hop at tips of the hat, AND WITH BARELY ANY GAPS in between songs. Yes, I said rap. She did covers of NWA, among others, and she has wicked flow. Again, long concert, and a top-notch sound system from being such a big artist. Possible ruin: Janelle Monae was the opening act, and I missed most of it. I was very, very bummed at being late to Monae's set, which makes the utter satisfaction I felt after Erykah's set even more amazing.
Honourable mention: Green Day, 2009. I am not a fan of Green Day. I like Dookie well enough, but that's all. I went because my friend was a fan. One of the best gambles of my life. What a tight live band who obviously love their audience. I couldn't believe how long it was (it rivaled the length of Waters' show), but what really surprised me was the range of moods throughout those hours. There was about half an hour where they went on this weird psychedelic tangent, another half an hour where they belted through a medley of classic blues songs, another half an hour where it was just Billy Joe and his acoustic. All of it very skillfully done and well ordered. Gained a new appreciation for them after that.
My favorite concert was a double bill by The Damned and The Clash in 1977, just before they released their respective debut albums. In fact, initially it was a quadruple bill, with the The Jam and Sex Pistols included as well. Those two pulled out at the last moment and instead of that we got a completely unknown bespectacled guy named Elvis Costello. Costello's set left the punk congegation kinda indifferent. But the two headliners were a riot, in the literal sense of the word. Both The Damned and The Clash went full-blast, the audience going crazy, beercans flying everywhere, the crowd fighting the security guys, the bouncers fighting the band (Paul Simonon got swung around a couple of meters by a gorilla after he tried to pull a few fans on stage), the walls dripping with adrenaline and the musicians never missing a beat. Best rock 'n' roll show I ever witnessed.
Sleater-Kinney, White Stripes and The Stooges were pretty damn amazing. Wilco and Radiohead are always good live.
For live acts I tend to prefer more loud, energetic acts.
Weel, I've only been to a few (3) shows, but of them the best has to be Blondie, who I saw this summer. Their drummer is a balistic madman, in the good way.
Stones at Giants Stadium in '06 - because even in a room of 80,000 people all eyes are on Mick Jagger and because the chemistry of Keith Richards and Ron Wood has to be seen to be believed. 14-year-old me pretty much was in heaven.
Sleigh Bells back in September. My best friend and I went to see them live in this venue located at the top of a bar in a neighboring city. We had to wait outside for 2 and a half hours just to get in, but it was so worth it. It was a super small venue, probably only a couple hundred people were there total. My friend and I were in the absolute front, right next to the stage. There wasn't any security at all and so at several points during the show Alexis would reach her hands down and touch ours, which was pretty cool. Derek also put the mic right up to my face during a song, (I think it was "Crown on the Ground") and I just screamed heavily into it. There was tons of jumping and moshing going on, and by the time it was over I was totally out of breathe. Screaming along to every lyric kind of took its toll. After the show most of the people left, but a fair amount stayed behind. Alexis and Derek also stayed behind and just talked to all of us. I got to have like a two minute conversation with Alexis, she was really really nice. Derek was pretty quiet however. After my friend and I talked to her we took pictures of each other next to her with our cellphones, which turned out pretty shitty because it was so dimly lit, but whatever. Then I bought a vinyl of their album and got it singed by Alexis. Best concert ever.
But then you have stories like Nick's to show that the present day isn't bad either!
They're not my favourite live band and this isn't the best gig that I've been to but I saw the National a couple of months ago and it was awesome. Mainly because they ended with this:
Wilco...and I'm not saying it just because I'm a fan.
Last time I saw them, they basically played a ton of shit from their then new album (Sky Blue Sky) which I hated, and only like 3-4 old songs, but they still tore down the house.
I've never seen an international (non-brazilian band) artist live. Vampire Weekend is here in February, i'm crazy to go, but still maybe it won't happen. That's partly why i wanted to live in Europe or America, only to go to the cool concerts and festivals.
GRIZZLY BEAR hands down. So tight. The drumming was beyond belief, and the harmonies were untouchable.
My favorite show ever was R.E.M. at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA two days after Thanksgiving 1985.
I followed R.E.M. extensively in the mid-80's, seeing the band 30+ times at various sized venues up and down the east coast. But the Atlanta show (the second of 2 nights) was my favorite of all for a number of reasons: It was the final show of the Reckoning tour (Part II) and they were obviously very loose in their home state (playing the rare "Shaking Through", for instance). I had scored first row seats the night before, as well as backstage passes (not too hard to do back then... there was a small but strong network of fans that helped each other through various connections) and there was a huge party afterwards.
Opening for the REM-squad was the smokin' Jason and The Scorchers and the m-f-in' Minutemen! A crazy great bill... this was a month before D. Boon died and was my first live exposure (barring the previous night's show which I also attended) to my bass hero Mike Watt. I vividly recall Boon & Watt bouncin' and huffin' and melding their foreheads together on the over-sized stage, looking at each other like "What the hell are we doing here? F--- it- Let's just do our thing!"
Of course, R.E.M. was phenomenal... the height of their live performances for me- covering Crazy, See No Evil and Toys In The Attic. Surely we were aware that the big time for them was just around the corner and we could never go back, but just fond, fond memories of those days.
The completist in me wants to include the following addendum to the above post (courtesy the web):
30 November 1985 - Fox Theater, Atlanta, GA
support: Jason and the Scorchers, The Minutemen
set: Feeling Gravitys Pull / Harborcoat / Maps And Legends / Driver 8 / Fall On Me / Sitting Still / Laughing / Good Advices / So. Central Rain / Have You Ever Seen The Rain? / Can't Get There From Here / Shaking Through / Just A Touch / Cuyahoga - Auctioneer (Another Engine) / Old Man Kensey / Pretty Persuasion / Little America
encore 1: Gardening At Night / 9-9 / Windout
encore 2: Theme From Two Steps Onward / Second Guessing / See No Evil / Boy (Go) / Toys In The Attic / Born To Run / Life And How To Live It
notes: Large chunks of the lyrics of would become Cuyahoga form Stipe's spoken intro to Auctioneer. Boy(Go) is a brief acapella intro. Born To Run starts off a capella and ends up being a full band version
For accuracy's sake, this was not (as previously stated) the last show of the tour.
Arctic Monkeys and Café Tacvba were the best by far
No clear favorite for me. Some of the best include:
At the Greek Theater in Berkeley:
1) The Pretenders
2) Joe Jackson
At Radio City Music Hall, NY, NY - Todd Rundgren/Utopia
At Lincoln Center
Steely Dan (just after they released Pretzel Logic)
The Beach Boys (Long Island in the mid-70's)
Billy Joel (after Turnstiles) at Stony Brook
Dave Mason/Jackson Brown (Stony Brook @ 1974-1975)
The English Beat (San Francisco - early 1980's)
The Rolling Stones (at Candelstick Park @ 1980-1981)
Mindrocker's story is the kind of thing young music fans dream about. I could only imagine how incredible that must have been.
Since most people are doing two concerts, I figure I might as well too, considering my two favorite concerts are pretty different. I was lucky enough to see Paul McCartney at CitiField in New York when he played last year and that concert was phenomeonal. It was his usual backing band and they were great. They played for a solid 3 hours, and played probably 30 Beatles songs. Paul's voice was fantastic all night; you really couldn't tell it's owner was in his late 60's.
The best show I've ever seen though was LCD Soundsystem at Terminal 5 in New York City. Murphy is well-known for his live show, and it blew away even my lofty expectations. The techno jams were bumping, and I think I saw more dancing than I ever have at an "indie" concert. He didn't play that much from This Is Happening, but All I Want and I Can Change were both excellent. Of course, the highlight of the show had to be All My Friends. The energy in the room was unbelievable. I was with my two best friends from high school, and we all belted out every line. By the time the song was over the whole room was pretty much rocked. It really was one of the best nights of my young life.
Talking about LCD Soundsystem, I saw them last year (well I say last year but I mean November), being supported by Hot Chip with a couple of friends. Hot Chip were great, really a lot more than I expected but the gulf between them and LCD was as wide as...well you could fit a ship through there. They only played 11 songs, but all of those songs had improvised jams. The first 3 songs they played were Dance Yourself Clean, Drunk Girls and I can Change. Now I'm not that big a fan of the new album but god those songs were rocking live. And then during I Can Change, my friend lifted me up (forcibly) and I crowdsurfed. Now I've always had the impressions crowdsurfers were just annoying idiots, and they still are, by god it was comfortable. After I can Change I was knocked out, devoid of all energy. But god it was worth it!
Sdaly, my days of concert going ended with the birth of my children 7 years ago. The very few times I've been out to concerts since then, I have never been able to get my head into that state of abandon that great live music can transport you to.
Pre-kids, here were some of my faves (mentioned before on these boards but let's mention them again):
- P-Funk - 1996, Central Park Summerstage, 20th Anniversary Return of the Mothership, with all of the classic P-Funk players (Bootsy, Freed Wesley, Maceo, etc.)
- Pavement - 1994, Amherst College Campus Center Front Room - Tiny venue, no more than 200 in the audience. They were drunk, but the crowd was well into it. Messy yet somehow simultaneously epic.
- Beck - 1996, Roseland Ballroom - I loved Odelay when it came out, but I had no idea how he could put it over live. But for a few years there, he actually seemed to try and take the mantle of the hardest working, kinda irony-soaked but not really, man in show business.
- White Stripes - 2002, Radio City Music Hall - I went to see the Strokes, but opening act White Stripes blew them out of the water. The bands were doing a home-and-home series (not unlike what Eminem and Jay-Z did recently for the same cities). The Strokes delivered a note-for-note simulacrum of Is This, with only Albert Hammond, Jr. delivering any energy. (To be fair, Casablancas had to sit through the set because of an injured knee.) While I heard some of White Blood Cells, I had no idea what I was going to get from the White Stripes. Jack White was electrifying.
- Marcus Roberts - Early 90's, Amherst College - I have not seen as much really good live jazz as I should have. Roberts stands out for me, though, as having such a tender feel coupled with breathtaking technical proficiency.
- Radiohead - Liberty State Park, 2001 - Great setting for them.