A coworker asked me which live show that I’ve seen had the greatest impact on me. I thought that was a great question, and I thought it would be easy to answer, but the more I think about it, the more elusive the answer becomes.
Two days after my 16th birthday I saw KISS play two shows in a 1,500 seat theater, and that was a profound experience for me (remember, I was barely 16). That was the tour they did to promote the (first) KISS Alive! album and it was as close to perfection as my teenage goober brain could comprehend.
I discovered KISS when I was 14 years old and the Hotter Than Hell album cover compelled me to buy it. It’s difficult to imagine what KISS was in the context of the times. They were weird, mysterious, heavy, crazy. Everything a teenager wants in their music. Or used to want, I suppose. Pre-Billie Eilish.
As much as those shows may have affected the teenage me, I can’t rank them above a lot of other shows I’ve seen. I can’t boil it all down to one, or five, or ten. I just can’t do it.
So instead I saddle you with ten or so from each decade. It’s the best I can do.
- 1973 MAY 30 – Alice Cooper (Billion Dollar Babies tour) – Met Center
- 1974 SEP 1 – New York Dolls – Minnesota State Fair (yes, really) Teen Center
- 1975 NOV 14 – Aerosmith (opening for The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Edgar Winter Group) – St. Paul Civic Center
- 1976 FEB 6 – KISS (with Point Blank – KISS: Alive! tour, two shows, 8 PM and midnight) – St. Paul Civic Center Theater
- 1977 APR 13 – Led Zeppelin – St. Paul Civic Center
- 1978 JAN 21 – Ramones (with The Runaways) – Minneapolis Auditorium
- 1978 MAR 30 – Van Halen (third on the bill opening for Montrose and Journey, I left my front row center seat after Van Halen’s set) – St. Paul Civic Center Theater
- 1978 OCT 31 – Bob Dylan – St. Paul Civic Center
- 1979 SEP 12 – The Clash (with David Johansen, Sam & Dave and The Undertones – a picture of me in the front row is in Pennie Smith’s book, The Clash, Before and After) – St. Paul Civic Center
- 1979 NOV 20 – Iggy Pop (with Brian James, Ivan Kral and Glen Matlock in the band, Iggy attacked me with his t-shirt, I felt honored and somehow baptized) – Jay’s Longhorn, Minneapolis
- 1980 APR 23 – Pretenders – Sam’s (bouncers tossed me near the end of the set)
- 1980 JUL 29 – Johnny Thunders – 7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
- 1981 MAR 9 – Prince (Dirty Mind tour) – Sam’s
- 1981 APR 27 – Steel Pulse – Duffy’s (I took black and white photos)
- 1981 SEP 12 – Peter Tosh – (with Jimmy Cliff) Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis
- 1981 OCT 5 – Prince (surprise gig billed as “Controversy,” Prince switched instruments all night, The Time played too) – Sam’s
- 1982 APR 14 – Bad Brains – Duffy’s
- 1983 MAY 22 – U2 – Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis (wasn’t a fan of the band then and I’m still not, but this was easily one of the most incredible rock shows I’ve ever witnessed)
- 1986 JUL 13 – Bunny Wailer (with Leroy Sibbles and Ras Michael – first ever solo concert outside Jamaica) – Cal State Long Beach
- 1986 AUG 16 – Bunny Wailer (with Leroy Sibbles) – Madison Square Garden
I only went to five concerts during the entire decade, so no top shows list. The only notable gig was in August of 1993 I was backstage at an Aerosmith show (for Wayne’s World 2 filming) at the San Diego Sports Arena. Might be worth a post of its own. (Oh, look, here it is.)
I attended zero concerts in the 2000s.
I only saw eight shows in the teens, these were the best.
- 2012 SEP 14 – Fiona Apple – Greek Theater
- 2015 AUG 5 – First Aid Kit – The Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles (one of my top five shows of all time)
- 2017 MAY 12 – PJ Harvey – Greek Theater
Yikes, that’s 44 years watching bands play. It’s a miracle I can still hear myself think.