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50 Greatest Concerts 1959-2009: Part One (Thowback Thursday)

August 21, 2014

40. Muddy Waters, Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago, Ill., November 22, 1981
The Checkerboard Lounge was located on 43rd Street on the South Side of Chicago. Muddy Waters used to play there all the time and Buddy Guy eventually bought the club. I was shooting pictures and knew Junior Wells and got a call saying that I might want to come down and check out this Muddy Waters gig. At the time, he was playing theaters and didn’t play the South Side clubs very often. Over the course of the night, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Ian Stewart of the Rolling Stones – who were playing Chicago around that time – all came down and sat in. It was a mad house and most people were passing into the club through this back door that led into the office. All hell broke loose – you couldn’t breathe, move or even spit, but was one of those amazing nights I was fortunate enough to be at. Kirk West

39. Metallica, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nev., January 4, 1992
This was the never-ending tour, the one that lasted almost three years and more than 200 performances that spanned Planet Rock. The Black album, which went on to be the biggest selling record of the ‘90s, fueled the campaign that would not die. When the band pulled into Sin City, they left nothing in limo. Hammering through a two and a half hour set that featured the majority of Black – “Sad But True,” “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” “Nothing Else Matters” and “Wherever I May Roam” – as well as molten classics from Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and …And Justice For All, the one-time garage band blew the roof off. Lonn Friend

38. Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable with the Velvet Underground and Nico, The Trip, Los Angeles, Calif, May 3, 1966
What did the Velvet Underground sound like when they opened a 15-night engagement with Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable at The Trip in West Hollywood on May 3rd, 1966? With telling hyperbole, the Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Thomas described the year-old Velvets’ “searing sound from another planet,” though failed to detail a single song. And while there are some truly righteous Velvet Underground bootlegs, the shimmered-out drone-punk jams one imagines at The Trip – supported by an ice goddess chanteuse (Nico), a spastically dancing whip freak (Gerald Malanga) and the century’s foremost Pop conceptualist (Warhol) – are undoubtedly more mindbending. Especially knowing the sheriff shut them down after the third night. Jesse Jarnow

37. Bob Dylan, Boston Music Hall, Boston, Mass., November 21, 1975 second show
Everything about Bob Dylan’s fall 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue was mysterious, from its tour schedule to the ambling performance order to the white face make-up Dylan wore during his four mini-sets. In his most accessible, articulate voice, Dylan delivered unreleased songs from the forthcoming Desire fronting the incomparable Guam (T-Bone Burnett and Mick Ronson?!), rearranged old favorites, did sublime solo numbers and duetted with Joan Baez for the first time in a decade (begun with the lights off and curtain down). Was the long-bootlegged late show from the Boston Music Hall on November 22nd the best of the best as many say? Rolling Thunder retains some mysteries yet. Jesse Jarnow

36. Pearl Jam, Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill., July 11, 1995
Two days after the last Grateful Dead show with Jerry Garcia in the same venue, Pearl Jam stumbled into this booking in front of 47,000 fans in Vedder’s Chicago hometown, and the results are nothing less than astonishing. At the height of its fame, the band tears through signature rockers like “Go,” “Last Exit” and “Animal” with punk abandon, prompting singer Eddie Vedder to smash his beloved black Telecaster. Later, Pearl Jam plays classic rock karaoke with covers of “Everyday People” and “Let My Love Open the Door,” and turns the place into one giant sing-a-long with “Elderly Woman” and “Better Man.” The best part: this 30-song, 155-minute epic was broadcast live on Pearl Jam’s own pirate radio station, becoming an instant must-have bootleg. Jonathan Cohen

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