Top 10 Live Shows of All Time
Next week, I will be back with a more “typical” list full of new releases and reissues and what not, but for this week I got inspired by David Musto’s list from last week where he listed the 10 best live shows he’s ever been to. Now this list is, of course, totally arbitrary and I’m sure there will be shows I didn’t list but should’ve. But here it is. Having been going to shows since I was 14, here are 10 of the best I’ve ever seen or that stand out for one reason or another. What are yours?
The Stooges – Roseland (New York) – August 27, 2003
Simply put, I don’t think anything will ever top this. I had low expectations going into this show though I did hear that the Jones Beach show a week earlier was fantastic. Regardless, I bought a ticket and boy was it worth it. This was simply the loudest, most bodacious, visceral aural assault upon my ears that I’d ever endured, but it was such beautiful noise. The setlist consisted of nothing but material from their 1st 2 Lps (nothing from the subpar, much later The Weirdness spoiling the show) and everyone else was as stunned as I saw as to what they’d just witnessed. I heard others uttering “best show ever” as I walked out of Roseland that night and I couldn’t agree more.
ALL – City Gardens (Trenton, NJ) – October 24, 1993
I saw ALL the night before at Irving Plaza, so my desire to go to this show was minimal (though ALL were great). However, my friend Dan Torres convinced me to go and boy am I glad he did. Once we got inside the club, there was whispers that Milo Aukerman would be singing and that their regular singer at the time, Chad Price, was ill. Could this be? Would we get a set full of Descendents songs? Yes and yes (and then some)! Milo did indeed fly in from Wisconsin (where he was getting a PhD in biochemistry at the time) and just killed it. They covered Black Flag! I was so wired from this show that I stayed up almost all night and Milo’s academic astuteness inspired me to do my Calculus homework that night (I was a freshman in college)!
Superchunk – Trocadero (Philadelphia) – September 22, 2010
Please see my full review here.
The Big Takeover 30th Anniversary Festival – Bell House (Brooklyn, NY) – July 30th and 31st, 2012
Elvis Costello – Tilles Center for the Performing Arts (Brookville, NY) – October 19, 1999
This one is probably the most unexpected choice on my list. Let me explain. Though I’m a huge Elvis Costello fan and have seen him perform almost two dozen times in various configurations since seeing him for the first time a few years before this show, I had no plans to attend this show as I already had tickets for the show at the Beacon Theater a few nights after this. However, my friend Lynn Astorga hooked me up with 4 free tickets and so even though I had no clue where the venue was, had never been there before, it was hours away from where I was living at the time and I was starting a new temp job the next day, I went anyway with 3 good friends. We didn’t even know what our seats would be like and imagine my surprise when I found out they were right up front “gold circle” seats. Wow! Thanks, Lynn! The show itself was sublime, too, as Elvis (backed only by long-time pianist and collaborator Steve Nieve) played a set full of (then) 20 plus years of incredible songs in stripped-down form, but this is one where the details surrounding it make it more memorable than any other Elvis show I’ve ever seen!
Copout – somewhere on Comstock St in a shed (New Brunswick, NJ) – July ?, 1994
Now here’s an unexpected surprise in a completely different way. The only basement/shed/house show to make this list (I was going to tons of those kinds of shows during that time period), Copout (whose members would go on to form much better-known bands like His Hero is Gone and later Tragedy) was a short-lived outfit from Memphis who while not much on record, were simply put the most stunning live hardcore punk I’ve ever seen. Playing in a hot-as-balls shed in the middle of summer to about 10 other people (including my friend Pedro Angel Serrano, who I remember dancing naked during their set!), they must’ve played for only a dozen minutes and played at least as many songs during that time. But what an intense, incredible blast of sound it was. Afterwards, I practically accosted their members for a 7” that I couldn’t even afford at the time (and they gave it to me anyway; what nice people!) as I was so stunned by what I saw. Even better, I’d had stomach pains before their set from eating the free (and not so great) Indian food some of the house members had made, but by the end of their set, I felt great! That’s the healing power of music right there!
Afghan Whigs – Bowery Ballroom (New York) – February 18, 1999
This show was originally scheduled for December 19th, 1998 (I have the ticket stub to prove it), but if I remember correctly, Greg Dulli got into a bar fight and hurt his hand and so they had to reschedule the show. Aside from this notable incident, this was also the first show I ever attended at Bowery Ballroom (one of my favorite clubs of all-time) and so I remember it well for that reason, too. I remember Marcy Mays of Scrawl coming out to sing “My Curse” with them and their revue-like setup and covers of The Supremes, TLC, Public Enemy and others), Olu Dara‘s opening set and how amazing they sounded once the initial sound problems were fixed. Fast forward 13 years and they’re playing shows again and we’ll be fortunate enough to see them headline and curate the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Asbury Park this year (along with the aforementioned Scrawl and many other artists).
The Chameleons with Springhouse – Maxwells (Hoboken, NJ) – October 5, 2002
This show absolutely belongs on the list for a number of reasons. First off and most importantly, it was at this show that I bought my first ever copies of The Big Takeover and that led me to subscribing, signing up for the mailing list and eventually becoming a contributing writer for the magazine (and eventually this blog) as well. Along the way, I’ve met many great folks as well and I have Jack Rabid (and my friend Jeremy Holiday, who encouraged me to go to this show) to thank for all of it. Oh and The Chameleons (the only time I ever got to see all of them play together) were phenomenal, as were Springhouse! During this period, I lived in Hoboken and so I went to many shows at Maxwells. It’s one of my all-time favorite clubs and we still go there once or twice a year on average though we live in Philadelphia!
The Go-Betweens – Southpaw (Brooklyn, NY) – June 11, 2005
This show is very special to me for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I first met my wife, Anne Leavitt-Gruberger, at this show! It was also the last time (and in my case the only time) we ever got to see this great band before the late Grant McLennan‘s untimely death the following year.
Radiohead with Low – Madison Square Garden (New York) – October 10, 2003
This is another pivotal show for me. This is the first show I ever reviewed for The Big Takeover. It’s also one of the best performances I’ve ever seen Radiohead give in my now 15 years of seeing them perform (including last week’s amazing show in Camden).