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50 Greatest Concerts 1959-2009: Part Two (Throwback Thursday)

August 28, 2014

25. Bruce Springsteen, Bottom Line, New York, N.Y., August 15, 1975
With the release of the much delayed Born To Run and the simultaneous TIME and Newsweek covers still weeks ahead, Bruce Springsteen came to New York City’s Bottom Line in mid-August for ten shows over five days. Delivering nearly six hours of original compositions and rock classics each night, with ample helpings from the forthcoming release, the group, which included new guitarist Steven Van Zandt, had become a lean, mean, fighting machine (as per Springsteen’s pre-show patter on the middle evening, which aired on WNEW and swiftly resurfaced as one of the most bootlegged shows in music history). If this was the tour that helped establish the hype then it also demonstrated how Springsteen would transcend it – via dynamic performances that proved profound and profane, raucous and revelatory, as an artist yearned, yelped and shared his soul’s music. Dean Budnick

24. U2, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, Colo., June 5, 1983
When U2 was on tour supporting the War album, the band and their manager, Paul McGuinness, sensed that the Red Rocks date was going to be special. The band decided to risk every penny they had (and then some) to help underwrite the filming and recording of the Red Rocks gig. On the day of the show, the weather was miserable and the working conditions were dangerous. A few guys got serious electrical shocks while setting up in the rain. There were mumblings of “mutiny” in the name of safety by a small faction of non-Irish crewmembers. The opening act, The Alarm, was canceled but the wet, stoic audience was told, much to their surprise, that U2 would perform. As the band stood in the wings, I saw a look of nervousness on Bono’s face that I would never see again. By the second song, everyone, especially the band, realized that this was going to be an unforgettable experience. The elements enhanced the look of the amphitheater and challenged the band to prevail. Bono was in the zone. Nothing was rehearsed. (They hadn’t even soundchecked.) He climbed the speaker stacks. He climbed the side of the mountain. He riffed on Stephen Sondheim. He beat Mother Nature. Randy Ezratty, sound engineer

23. The Ramones, CBGB, New York, N.Y., August 16, 1974
The first show we ever played was with a group called Angel and The Snake, which eventually became Blondie. The other act on the bill was The Cocketts, from San Francisco. The audience consisted of local artists, Hells Angels, drag queens and winos. We stormed onto the stage and got through our set without stopping except to tune – the drummer (myself) reached over the cymbals and tuned the guitar and bass. We occasionally stopped to have an argument about which song we should play next. One highlight was when we all started playing a different tune and didn’t realize it until we were in the middle and had to stop to get our bearings. We were using tiny little Mike Mathews amps that had a big huge sound, but they would blow up on a regular basis because we would drive them so hard. It was a wild night. Tommy Ramone

22. Grateful Dead, Fillmore West, San Francisco, Calif., March 1, 1969
In the years after 1969, the Grateful Dead would grow immeasurably. They’d make wonderful albums with superbly crafted songs ( Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty ). They’d define the cutting edge of sound technology, create their own record company, establish themselves as a functioning business – and even become legends. But in 1969, with none of that visible, they were merely the most wildly experimental improvisational string band in the land, and on a good night, they could fuse rock modalities and jazz improvisation at a level that even Miles Davis would respect. March 1st, 1969 is certainly arguable as one of those nights – it’s simply exquisite. And, like the proverbial error in all great Middle Eastern carpets (supposedly placed so as not to offend Allah by attempting perfection), they followed up two hours of heaven with an encore that was the worst rendition of “Hey Jude” in human history – the full range of the Dead in one package. Dennis McNally, author and former Grateful Dead publicist

21. Lollapalooza ‘91, Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, Calif., July 26, 1991
There were shows on the first Lollapalooza tour that would stand out for one band in particular, and then there were shows where it seemed like every band was on fire like the San Francisco-area show. The vibe on the tour was pretty electrifying: alternative rock literally turned the corner and became a mainstream idea in a big way. Nine Inch Nails was this alternative force playing super heavy club music that got these huge crowds jumping up. There was such camaraderie on that first tour: You had Henry Rollins and his band, the Butthole Surfers and, of course, Jane’s Addiction – a lot of this was Perry Farrell’s idea. The other crazy thing about that tour is that it was literally the point in which body piercing and tattooing became a mainstream things. After Lollapalooza I started to see kids working at McDonald’s with pierced tongues. Maybe it’s because San Francisco has such history with ‘67 and the Summer of Love, but that show was special – everyone stepped up their game. Vernon Reid, Living Colour

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