RIP Roseland: My Five Favorite Shows
1. Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes October 12, 1999
Chris Robinson almost never tucks in his shirt in concert. But when The Black Crowes hit the stage with Led Zeppelin guitar god Jimmy Page at the Roseland on October 12, 1999, the singer made sure he was dressed to impress as he stood beside one of his heroes on the very first show they performed together. The kickoff of a three-night stand at the Ballroom, I was in utter shock that I was able to nab a ticket to any of these shows, let alone the opening night. But with the Hammer of the Gods by my side, I was bestowed one general admission ticket to the event, one of the rare instances I was more than happy to hit a concert solo. Honestly, I didn't know what was cooler: hearing the Crowes cajoling Page into cracking open his guitar tablatures on such deep Zep nuggets as "Custard Pie", "Sick Again" and "Out of the Tiles", or hearing Pagey play guitar on such indelible Black Crowes favorites as "Wiser Time", "No Speak No Slave" and "Remedy", not to mention tearing up the Robinsons' famed covers of Elmore James' "Shake Your Moneymaker" and Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle". But it all came home the moment they busted out back-to-back versions of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" and "The Shapes of Things" from the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds (though, in hindsight, a nod to Page's tenure in the group with a cover of something off Little Games would have been super cool). Over 15 years later, this show remains the greatest thing I ever seen inside of a New York City club.
2. Pavement with GBV and the Dirty Three October 15, 1994
Biohazard/House of Pain might have been my first show at the Roseland, but my first meaningful concert at the venue was this mind-blowing triple bill in October of 1994. Watching a rather dapper looking Warren Ellis a good few years before his "wild man of Borneo" image took over during his years with Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, Mick Turner and Jim White mesmerize the Roseland crowd with their baroque-noise instrumental rock was indeed a sight to see. Guided By Voices, high off a summer of accolades from the release of their legend-making Bee Thousand LP, brought a cooler onstage and pounded beers between songs and then surprised the audience by bringing The Breeders' Kim Deal out to help Bob Pollard sing "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory".We thought we had all gotten our money's worth already before Pavement took to the stage. But once the headliners kicked off their set by introducing the New York fans to "Grounded", the best song off their then-upcoming album Wowee Zowee, it was a veritable feast of favorites for Pavement fans as the band tore through such choice nugs from 1992's Slanted and Enchanted and that year's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain as "Silent Kid", "Gold Soundz", "Conduit For Sale", "Brinx Job", "Range Life", "Two States", "Trigger Cut", "Debris Slide", "Cut Your Hair" and "In Her Mouth a Desert" with such electricity and conviction that if they weren't your favorite band walking into the Roseland that night, they sure as hell were walking out. If you didn't see Pavement in 1994, you didn't truly see Pavement.
3. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros November 23, 1999 Joe Strummer's pipebomb of a performance on Thanksgiving week of 1999 marked the only time I ever was lucky enough to have seen a concert from the storied VIP side stage of the Roseland. And it was a great eye-line view of Joe and his Mescaleros lay waste to the main stage of the Ballroom not unlike his old band The Clash did at Bond's in Times Square just a few blocks away from the venue back in 1982. Though the show was theoretically in support of his new group's debut album Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, Clash classics like "Safe European Home", "White Riot", "London Calling", "White Man at Hammersmith Palais" and "Rudie Can't Fail" dominated the set to the delight of those of us in the crowd who were too young to have seen The Clash in their heyday. The whole thing was filmed by HBO for their excellent and sadly short-lived live music series Reverb. Three years later, Strummer would be gone far too soon from us, having succumbed to complications from a congenital heart defect three days before Christmas in 2002. But the memory of seeing the Godfather of punk rock kicking a stage monitor at the venue's security with all the piss and vinegar he brought with him to America in 1979 on The Clash's first tour of the States still remains as vivid in my mind as the night it went down. RIP Joe.
4. Ween November 1, 2003
Back before he became the go-to keyboard wizard for the likes of Cibo Matto and Sean Lennon, Jared Samuel of Superhuman Happiness was one of the best buddies I had from my Long Island days. We had hit several concerts together back then, but the one that always sticks out in my mind was seeing Ween at the Roseland stop of their 2003 tour in support of their excellent ninth LP Quebec. Having seen Deaner and Gener several times since The Mollusk tour, this had to have been the best concert I had ever witnessed from New Hope, PA's finest sons, as they and their top-notch band played just about every song you'd want to hear at a Ween concert on this night: "Golden Eel". "Baby Bitch". "Piss Up a Rope". "Wavin My Dick". "Voodoo Lady". "Mutilated Lips". "Roses Are Free". "Bananas & Blow". "You Fucked Up". An acoustic set that included "Help Me Scrap the Mucus Off My Brain" and "Bithday Boy". "Buckingham Green". "Spinal Menengitis". "The Mollusk". "Ocean Man". "Freedom of '76". "Big Jilm". "The Blarney Stone". They even encored with a better live version of Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door ballad "All My Love" more superior than Pagey and the boys did on their final tour. Don't believe me? Download the show at Archive.org and judge for yourself, kids!
5. Mos Def with Black Jack Johnson December 8, 2000
The headlining act at the Roseland stop of Rawkus Records' Lyricist Lounge tour was the controversial NYC rap label's then-reigning heavyweight champion Mos Def. But rather than do yet another solo set with a DJ and backing track, the artist currently known as Yasiin Bey assembled quite possibly the single best pound-for-pound supergroup ever assembled in Black Jack Johnson, comprised of Funkadelic's Bernie Worrell on keys, Bad Brains guitarist Dr. Know and the Living Colour rhythm section of drummer Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish on the bass. "Who said that black people can't play rock?" Mos smirked at the crowd before blowing the mind of any rock-rooted soul in the hip-hop heavy audience with a set that started with the band free-riffing on Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun" before transforming such classic Mos Def cuts as "Umi Says" and "Ms. Fat Booty" as well as material written for a Black Jack Johnson album that never happened. In a year where rap-rock posturing was at an all-time high, it was so cool to see the Mighty Mos pimp slap the Fred Dursts of the world with a loaded glove of realness.