Heather’s Top Five Concert Experiences

Editor’s note – this was supposed to go up Friday.

As you read this, I am away at a two day music festival in Hersey, PA. I’m sure I will return with plenty of stories and photos from our adventure; it is shaping up to be quite the weekend.

This musical road trip got me thinking about all the other concerts I’ve been to over the years. I’ve been to more than my fair share of shows, which is ironic because I don’t really love concerts. They can be fun, but more often than not the people in the audience are annoying, the sound quality is not great and I wind up wishing that I had just stayed home and listened to the cd. But concerts are something to do with people and I’m always up for a night out, even if that involves seeing a band that I don’t really care about (for example, I’ve seen Creed twice live. I had no interest in seeing Creed once. I am a good friend.)

However, if all my concert experiences didn’t live up to the expectation, I’d like to think that I’d eventually just stop going. After all, isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Though I’ve had some definite disappointments in going to live shows (Dave Matthews Band was a nightmare thanks to the crowd), there have also been some fantastic nights that have more than made up for the lesser encounters. So while I’m off hopefully eating some chocolate, here’s a list of my top 5 concert experiences:

5. New Kids on the Block, Saratoga Raceway, 1990

This was my first ever concert and it was a doozy. I was a HUGE New Kids on the Block Fan and I was lucky enough to have a seat in the 5th row. Most of my friends were in General Admission, so this was quite the coup. This may also be the beginning of my snobbery when it comes to seating at concerts and ball games; I hate to be away from the action, which unfortunately means I pay the price for prime seating. NKOTB put on a great show and it was easy to get swept up in the all the hormonal excitement of the crowd. I was convinced that Joe McIntyre – my favorite in the group – smiled and waved at me. At 13, you believe such things. This was also the infamous concert where Donnie Wahlberg fell through a trap door in the stage and had to be hospitalized, so I started my concert-going with a lot of drama.

4. Phish, The Centrum, 2008

When my friend called me last minute to see if I wanted to see Phish in Worcester, MA I was up for the journey even though I wasn’t a fan of the band. I’m not sure if I could have even named two of their songs. But my pal had become chummy with one of the guys in the band, so the tickets were free and I figured we’d be treated well as a “friend of the band.” One of the roadies took a liking to me and was endlessly amused that this was my first Phish show and how little I knew about them, so he went out of his way to make sure it was a great experience. We were standing in the section between the front row and the stage (where security normally is – I was literally leaning on the stage) and he offered to move me up to sit on the stage with the mixer and the sound guy. I demurred; I was already feeling tremendously guilty that I, a non-fan, was already enjoying benefits that I didn’t fully appreciate. I kept turning around to think about how many people would have killed to be in my position. I thought sitting on the stage was a bit much. Phish won me over that night – they put on a really great show and it turns out I liked their music – and I became a fan. Getting to hang out back stage with free drinks didn’t hurt either. One of my biggest regrets is declining an invite to hang out with the band back at the hotel; that was an amazing opportunity that I made my friend turn down because I didn’t want to wake up my parents to call to say I wasn’t coming home until much later (or the next morning). I still kick myself. Damn me for being so conscientious. I probably would have gotten some cool stories.

3. Metallica, Prudential Center, 2009

I had always wanted to see Metallica live, but was always afraid to go. Metal band audiences can get a little rowdy and at 5’1” and as a girl, I’m in no position to be throwing down with a bunch of guys. Most of my friends aren’t really Metallica fans and there was no way I was going alone. Way too intimidating. But in 2009 not only was friends with a die-hard Metallica fan, he was more than up for taking me to my first show. We even decided to get pit tickets, where it is general admission and tends to be the most volatile but is also the closest to the band. We managed to get to the second row of the pit and the fans couldn’t have been nicer; apparently as Metallica fans have aged, they have also mellowed. Really, they couldn’t have been nicer. I had plenty of strangers looking out for me and if there was any pushing and shoving, my friend stood behind me and absorbed it so I never really got jostled. Metallica was fantastic – great set, lots and enthusiasm – and they played my favorite song, “Nothing Else Matters.” I even walked out of there with a neat souvenir (thanks to my friend) – the arm band that James Hetfield wore throughout the show and threw into the crowd. Dear Lord, did that thing smell. I eventually washed it, thereby losing my ability to clone Hetfield, but it serves as a great reminder of a great night. I have good luck at Metallica concerts; at my second show I caught a guitar pick from Kirk Hammet.

2. Bruce Springsteen, Times Union Center, 2009

Loyal readers of the blog won’t be surprised that this concert cracked the top 5, as I previously wrote about this concert and what it meant to me. It was my first Springsteen concert and he is one of the best live performers I have ever seen. I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to see him. I’ve loved every Springsteen show I’ve seen, but this one holds special significance.

1. Paul McCartney, Madison Square Garden, 2002

I don’t think that any concert experience will ever dethrone this concert in my heart. There was just far too much emotion wrapped up in this night for any other show to even come close.

Obviously, Paul McCartney is a living legend. I don’t think there is much room for debate. The man was a freaking Beatle. He helped write some of the most beautiful and popular songs of all time. I’m partial to his post-Beatles material as well; Wings had some great material. I’m especially fond of “Baby I’m Amazed.” So seeing Sir Paul in and of itself would have been pretty spectacular.

But what really made this night spectacular was that I took my mother for her birthday. I was primarily a Beatles fan because of her; growing up, she always had their albums playing. I knew more about their music than I did about the music that most little kids were listening to. In fact, I thought the Beatles were a current band up until I went to school; I had no idea that they had broken up well before I was even born, though even at 4 I was aware of John Lennon’s death. My mother’s favorite Beatle was Paul, so I also gravitated toward him growing up. I liked that he had a daughter with the same name as me. My mom had never seen Paul McCartney live so to be able to give her that experience meant a lot to me. As soon as the concert started, I was transported back to being a five year old kid. Being able to share that night with my mother, I was overcome with emotion and had tears streaming down my face for a lot of the show (I assure you, despite what you’ve read, I don’t cry at the majority of the concerts I go to). To see my mother so happy just meant the world to me. I don’t even know if I can adequately put into words how I felt that night.

The show was beyond tremendous; I really hadn’t expected anything less than amazing, but somehow McCartney managed to exceed every expectation. It is really unfair how talented he is. George Harrison had died a few months before the concert and he did a really touching tribute to him, as well as one to John Lennon. I really never wanted that night to end; I would have been happy to listen to Paul McCartney, sitting next to my mom, for the rest of my life.

I’ve had the opportunity to see McCartney again many times, but that night at Madison Square Garden was just so perfect that I don’t want to do anything that could possibly mar that memory. I’m sure that Sir Paul would be just as amazing, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

So there you have it – 5 concert experiences that keep me going to live shows and also illustrate the diversity of my musical taste. Hopefully the music festival that I’m currently at can come close to living up to the standard set by these performances.

What are your favorite concert experiences? Feel free to share in the comments.

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