Asking Local Spins readers to name their favorite concert of all time was asking for trouble. But the ridiculously difficult task produced some incredible memories from some remarkable shows.
I knew when I typed out Local Spins’ “Question of the Week” at the suggestion of a longtime friend that I would unleash untold anxiety, turmoil and brain cramps to end all brain cramps.
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Asking music lovers to name their favorite concert of all time is woefully and outrageously unfair — or as Local Spins writer Tricia Boot Woolfenden put it: “This is an impossible task, Sink. This time you’ve gone too far.”
Probably, and I must confess that it approaches the height of hypocrisy when I myself can’t complete this simple-but-confounding task: There’s no way on God’s green earth that I can settle on the best concert I’ve ever witnessed. Ain’t gonna happen. Nope. Nada.
Not only have I literally attended a few thousand concerts over the years, but I cut my teeth as a live music fan during the 1970s and early ’80s when I was fortunate enough to see Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, The Eagles, Peter Frampton, Jethro Tull, R.E.M. and so many others during their heyday.
Then there were the unusually stimulating, intimate shows in smaller, jam-packed venues or bars that left a lifelong impression: Devo, Alejandro Escovedo, Joan Osborne, Ray Charles, Dr. John, Leon Russell, Richard Thompson, Santana, Alice Cooper, Spoon, Jeff Beck, Elvis Costello, The Neville Brothers, Jonny Lang, Black Crowes, Umphrey’s McGee, Warren Zevon, Gov’t Mule, Porcupine Tree, David Byrne, Low Cut Connie and an endless roster of scintillating shows by local stars ranging from Billy Strings to The Verve Pipe.
Oh, and how can you ignore the mammoth spectacle of a U2, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters’ “The Wall” or The Rolling Stones?
But I digress. Here’s what you the readers came up with — and I give many of you credit for the chutzpah you’ve shown in actually citing your favorite (or top two or three) shows of all time.
Of course, amid all of the outstanding, legendary shows listed below, my favorite response came courtesy of reader G. Kendall Kiel. He only needed two words and no further explanation for his pick, which tops all others: “Woodstock 1969.”
THE READER RESPONSES
James Adado – Bill Graham benefit concert in San Francisco, Calif., 1991. 300,000-500,000 at the free event. Largest crowd I’ve ever been in. Wow-zers!
Thomas Leonard Saxe – February 1975, with Ed Sypniewski: Genesis at the Grand Valley dome. They did the entire “Lamb Lies Down album” and encore tunes were “Watcher of the Skies” and “I Know What I like (In Your Wardrobe).” Peter Gabriel changed costumes for every single tune.
Bradley Raffenaud – Bad Brains, 1982 City Club Detroit
Mike Metchikoff – Too many to choose from, but two came to mind immediately: Tedeschi Trucks Band at U of M Hill Auditorium in 2014 and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (with Steve Winwood as opening act) at Van Andel in 2008.
John Hann – Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz: 1981, Welsh Auditorium
Mary Schumaker – The (Dixie) Chicks, Amsterdam, 4/20 & 4/21/18.
Dan Ouellette – Ray Charles at the Kalamazoo State Theatre. It was his last time there. 2002? 2003?
Carmen Sluiter – That’s a tough question. I have so many favorites
Melodee Van Bogelen Horsford – Hands down, without a doubt, Pink Floyd at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech, IN THE RAIN!
Tricia Boot – This is an impossible task, Sink. This time, you’ve gone too far sir. (Two from my top 10: Nick Cave/Masonic Temple/Detroit/2017; Radiohead/State Theatre/Detroit/1997)
Chad Michael Wedeven – NYE 2016. Wealthy Theatre. Seth Bernard, Vox Vidorra, The Crane Wives and The Go Rounds. It capped off a glorious year of discovery after I threw off the shackles of “Divorcee Moping” and dove headfirst into the music scene. Epic fun.
C.T. Revere – Hard to pick. If I could revisit any one, it would be Bob Marley and the Wailers in at the Music Hall in Houston in 1975.
Joel Schultze – Rastaman Vibration tour. I didn’t know his music when I saw him, but it was great.
Craig Gietzen – Warren Zevon @ Reptile House
Don Clapham – Pink Floyd at Olympia Stadium, June 1975. Nothing will ever beat “Dark Side of the Moon” start to finish, followed by a 20-minute “Echoes” encore.
Evan D. Rossio – Bruce Springsteen: The River Tour 3/81 at Market Square Arena, Indianapolis. Great show with great friends. I also loved the Elvis Costello Imperial Bedroom Tour show in Columbus in ‘82, and The Ramones at IU in ‘81.
Timmy Rodriguez – Paul McCartney. CoMerica Park. 2011. A thunderstorm opened up for him and then once he took the stage, the storm was on the horizon in the distance. It was epic. He also played “Helter Skelter” and I almost lost my pants.
Lance Climie – Return to Forever, Aquinas Fieldhouse, 1975. Chick Corea, Al DiMiola, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White.
Teresa Marie – Dave Matthews 1997 the Gorge
Ted Smith – In 1993, I saw Frank Sinatra at The Quad City Arena in Moline, Ill. Had an aisle seat in the 13th row and shook hands with him as he walked to the stage
Naomi Goedert – Chimaira at Ten Bells. Never forget it. Packed beyond capacity, hotter than hell. I was covered in sweat being pinned over Mark’s monitor just raging my fool heart out. I have a lot of great concert memories but that show and any of their shows really always just gave me such a release and the energy is like nothing else.
Rex Larsen – Stevie Ray Vaughan in a small Chicago club with about 50 people. It was his first trip to the Midwest. Junior Valentine suggested we check out Jimmy Vaughan’s brother, “Steve”. Second place is U2 at Fountain Street Church. Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters at Club Soda in Kalamazoo changed my life. Albert King in Greenwich Village must be on the list. It’s impossible to pick one because it’s art. How can I forget James Brown in Chicago? Damn, James Brown!
Marty Lighthizer – Mentioned before in another comment thread, but once again: Talking Heads, Remain in Light tour, 1983 (?), Tokyo Japan.
Michael J Vizard – The Allman Brothers, Hollywood Bowl, 1973, ‘Eat a Peach’ album time. Flo & Eddie & Loggins & Messina opened. Johnny Winter stepped up during the encores. Had hitched out to Califonia a couple years after getting back from Vietnam and a local girl from Gardena took me under her wing. Many stories from this time.
Dave Adams – David Bowie Reality tour with Macie Gray 2004 at The Palace.
Stephen Aldrich – Fave? Orville Peck, October 2019, Pyramid Scheme.
AJ Dunning – Queen @ Cobo Hall, ’78.
Lee Chase – Its a tie. First was the McCoy Tyner Quartet at Detroit’s Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in ’72 or ’73. Second was George Jones in a 200 capacity redneck bar in Redford, MI – winter of ’79-’80. The show was oversold and we were “forced” to sit on the floor in front of the bandstand.
Steve Damstra – Paul McCartney and Wings Over America, Cobo Hall, 1975. I got free tickets from Doc Donovan, WLAV air-ace RIP
Mary Ellen Murphy – This is tough. I’ll say Neil Young and Crazy Horse at United Center 2012. But the general admission show with The Rolling Stones at the Silverdome is right up there too.
Greg Chandler – All time: It wasn’t one concert, it was a whole week of concerts. Avetts at the Beach at Riviera Maya in January 2018. Avett Brothers, Head and the Heart, Old Crow Medicine Show, John Prine, Langhorne Slim, Jill Andrews.
Michael Packer – Too many, but one was “Lamb” with Genesis at GVSU one night and in Indiana the next. Both night with Doc (aka H. Wayne Smith I was best man at his wedding RIP Doc!) was working at WLAV-FM at the time and the entire crew had tickets to that one. I was the only one not on acid at that one and I recall looking down the row to see them all agape, stunned (Aris will say it was horrible, but I remember at the end saying it was probably the best show he ever saw.) We went there the next night and were in while they were working – practicing the show. I recall the fire marshal stopping in to make sure the pyrotechnics didn’t catch the place on fire. Another was Todd Rundgren (Todd is God!). He was pissed that they didn’t allow him to do an encore. Hung with him after the show. Another was Dave Brubeck – went there with Carolyn Heines and she blessed me with a visit after the show. Another was the Smothers Brothers when they came in … as part of the show we put on when the Ford Museum did their comedy exhibit. Hung with them and Tommy was one of the smartest person I ever met, Another was Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom.
Denny Gramza – Dylan, with opening act the Brian Setzer Orchestra at Van Andel. Setzer’s horns came out for “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” — and Dylan grinned for the first time that night.
Toby Bresnahan – Weather Report, Majestic Theater GR. Circa 1974.
Thomas Fouts – One show that stands out was Eric Clapton at Grand Valley Fieldhouse In Allendale. Hot August night and there was a meteor shower! After the show we we laying outside in the grass watching shooting stars and Eric Clapton came over and watched them with us for about 15 minutes!
Douglas J. Dok – Lots and lots of wonderful concerts going back to the mid-60s, so very hard to pick one, but UB40 at DeVos Hall from a second row seat had my whole body reverberating from the bass line! Red red wine! Gotta add Pink Floyd, 1977 in Miami, Fla. One more: Aerosmith as opening act for Sha-Na-Na in the fall of 1973, Boston Mass area.
Dan Lynn – It was a three-day campout weekend at Laguna Seca Raceway in California with the Grateful Dead, Los Lobos, and David Lindley and El Rayo-X. In the middle of one of the shows, a friend I didn’t know was there appeared out of nowhere and slapped a backstage pass sticker on my leg.
G. Kendall Kiel – Woodstock 1969
Ted Bergin – The ICC in Berlin, second night of a two-night Grateful Dead stand. They broke out “Dark Star” which was on my GD bucket list of songs to hear live.
Michael A McLaughlin – Neil and Crazy Horse at the Cow Palace, Pink Floyd Animals tour at Candlestick Park, JJ Grey, Wanee 2010, surrounded by his fan club.
Mary Cope Brennan – Chuck Berry, circa 1970. I was there with my brother David Cope at the old Civic Auditorium.
John Crissman – It’s like asking which kid you like best but here goes. Leon Russell at Rumers on Division. About 40 very happy customers. Warren Zevon at the Reptile House. A packed happy house. More recently was Ray Wylie Hubbard and then a year later was The Cosmic Honky Tonk Revue with Jim Lauderdale, Chuck Mead and Jason Ringenberg. Both shows at The Tip Top Deluxe!!
Matt Plichta – Infections, Dirty Looks and The Romantics at The Great Northern Music Hall. Division & Burton. Staten Island Dirty Looks. Brian Setzer copped that Gretch.
Kristine Carpenter – Harry Chapin, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor and John Denver taking turns doing 2 or 3 songs at a time backed only by Terry Clements.1977. Tickets were 12.00 (15.00 for the ‘good’ seats). It was a benefit for World Hunger Year.
James Markus – Simon and Garfunkel at Van Andel in 2004
David Winick – Houston Astrodome, 1968. Jimi Hendrix. We had good seats. I recall the buzz of the Marshall stacks on standby before the concert. We were pretty buzzed as well.
Tammy Hall – Toss up between ZZ Top and Ted Nugent.
Brian Haik – The Allman Brothers Band (whom I’ve seen 22 times)! One show in particular I will never forget is when they performed in Telluride, Co. Outdoors show, sun was setting amongst the most amazing sceanery (including an enormous mountain), they opened up the show with Mountain Jam (30+ minute perfectly orchestrated instrumental). After this song they went into Layla! Which makes sense because Gregg Allman’s brother was a key component to Derek & the Dominoes album from which Layla hailed, and it’s where Derek Trucks (quite possibly the worlds greatest slide guitarist, & in the ABB) got his name…This show tied with The Rolling Stones “Bridges to Babylon ” tour in ’97 at the Silverdome, my sister and I got 3rd row from the mini stage! And lastly, but equally amazing and best show the Van Andel Arena ever had was Page & Plant in ’98. I waited overnight at the Plainfield Meijer to get 4th row center seats. It was worth the wait! Jimmy Page lit up the Van Andel proving he was still the greatest living rock guitarist. These were the top 3 for me. Other worthy mentions: Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes (The Palace 2000), Roger Waters “The Wall” (The Palace 2010). Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger (The Doors) at Pine Knob 2003. Great setlist and show with Ian Ashtbury (from The Cult) singing lead. We got seated in front of the sound board and got backstage! All because of a joint. It’s a long story. I could go on and on, so many unforgettable shows
Jerry Davis – James Gang and the Byrds in East Lansing, 71/72
Richard B. Kelley – Rolling Stones at Spartan Stadium ‘94. I bought 16 excellent tickets (thank you Herm and Jimmy) and friends came from all over west Michigan and the country on a perfect night weather wise. We partied our asses off outside but the lack of alcohol inside made everything much more enjoyable. The Stones were only a dozen shows into the tour so they were ON and not yet bored as happens with them. Most everybody in our extended group went on to have kids and divorces and fatal illnesses but on that night the rock and roll stars most assuredly aligned.
Peter Stieler – Led Zeppelin, April 30, 1977 at the Pontiac Silverdome. They were late, and no backup band, but a great show!
Debra Louise – Oh so many, probably Ray Charles at Interlochen
Steve Weideman – Clash show at Civic was really good. The reception for Curtis Blow by GR non-fans was unfortunate. I’ve seen many great shows over the years, but I can’t get past John Prine solo at the Golden Bear in 1986. It was a tiny venue with a great history of hosting great artists “before they pop!” located at the base of the Hunting Beach Pier. That show does not appear on any of the historical tour date websites I have looked at, but it happened… I was there!
John Hann – Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz: 1981, Welsh Auditorium
Bobby Moore – Jeff Beck + Mahavishnu Orchestra @ Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, 1975. Special because my little sis got tickets for my birthday. We went together.
C.E. Sikkenga – Jon Spencer Blues Explosion wsg R.L. Burnside and the Demolition Dollrods at the Metro in Chicago 8/26/1995
Andrew Ogrodzinski – John McLaughlin with Trilok Gurtu and Jonas Hellborg for two shows at the Montreaux Jazz Fedtibal in 1988. Even scored a nice FM recording years later. Or Frank Zappa at Royal Oak.
Jamie Geysbeek – American Acoustic Tour at Meijer Gardens (and in Cleveland) with Punch Brothers and I’m With Her.
Katy Barzedor – Tom Waits, 1987 (?). It was the “Franks Wild Years” tour), Power Center in Ann Arbor.
Robin Connell – Chick Corea at St Cecilia Music Center a few years ago. Yes, lots of concerts over the years and I was super delighted this one turned out to likely be the best I ever attended. To be in such a small venue, and so intimate, was part of the reason.
Steve Talaga – Can’t pick a single favorite concert. Some that come immediately to mind (not in any particular order): Herbie Hancock. David Liebman. Chick Corea. Branford Marsalis (with Kenny Kirkland, Tain, and Detroit’s own Robert Hurst on bass!). Michael Brecker (with Joey Calderazzo, Tain, and (maybe?) Chris Minh Doky). Keith Jarrett. Elton John. Pat Metheny. Kenny Barron. Todd Rundgren. REO Speedwagon. America. C.S.N. E.L.P. Kansas.
Rick Wilson – Ten Years After, 76ish, Cobo Hall.
Scott Stefanski – So many. Rush on the final tour, 7th row, The Palace. McCartney, Elton and ELO, all at Van Andel Arena were magical.
Brien Dews – Grateful Dead, Soldier Field, 1994. My seat was in the 15th row on the floor. During the set break I heard a security guy telling someone 2 rows behind me that they needed to go back to their seat. The guy responded with the sound isn’t that great up there. I whipped around and asked him where his seat was and he replied 1st row so I offered to trade him tickets which he accepted and I spent the rest of the show right in front of Jerry Garcia. I swear to this day Jerry winked and nodded at me.
Isaac Powrie – Not sure what my all-time favorite is but Umphrey’s McGee on 2/1/2013 at the Orbit Room is up there. It’s the night I got it with them and they became my favorite band. Added bonus: Greensky Bluegrass opened.
Dave Kuipers – Big Sherb at Meijer Gardens. My son is the bass player. It was great seeing him and his friends play at that venue. August 19, 2015 and July 9, 2019.
Thom Postema – Jan. ’93, Metallica at Wings Stadium. Met them backstage before the show and was in the snake pit in the center of the stage for the concert.
Neal Dionne – McCartney
Steve Goeddeke – The Dead, Rothbury ’09, 4th of July. Bob was real loud in the mix and gave an other-worldly performance that was a bridge to another universe, if you enjoy his unconventional approach to rhythm and harmony. The jam sections, such as in the opening improv section, “Eyes of the World,” the lead-in to “Friend if the Devil,” and the sinister “Viola Lee” at the end, transcended, and were at times beautiful, at times tense and frenetic, but the interaction between the instruments was cohesive at nearly every turn in a way that made my hair stand on end many times throughout the night.
Justin Wierenga – I’d have to say Return to Forever IV – Chick, Stanley and Lenny, but with Frank Gambale on guitar and Jean Luc Ponty on violin.
David Darling – Albert Lee at Seven Steps Up last year.
Roger Kintner – Any show with Warren Haynes playing.
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