I love music; I think music defines my life, in a variety of ways. I can measure my growth—both musical and literal—by the music I’ve listened to (and depended on) throughout my life. I look back on the concerts I’ve attended and they reflect who I was at the time, where I was emotionally, and what I was looking for, in terms of music and my life in general. Whether I was walking the frigid, quaint streets of Ann Arbor with my yellow Sony walkman, negotiating subways and NYC streets with a Discman while commuting to my first job as an adult, driving around the Hamptons with the salty sea air flowing through my Ford Explorer or now, listening to my IPod every time I exit my apartment, music has been and continues to be a part of my daily existence, my passage through life. The Indigo Girls concert I saw last week got me thinking about the concerts I’ve attended over the years; herewith, for whoever reads my website blogs and my FB Notes, is a list of my favorites:
Sting, Nassau Coliseum, L.I., March 1991. I liked Sting, but I liked the opening band, Concrete Blonde, a lot more.
Spin Doctors, Wetlands, NYC, June 1991. Anyone remember Wetlands? It was the funkiest club in TriBeCa, on Hudson Street. We always got lost driving there. The Spin Doctors were really cool, before they became popular and started to suck. This was a great show—I think I went with Tara and Bryan, friends from high school.
Grateful Dead, Giants Stadium, NJ, June 1991, with Dana, Ryan, Tara and Bryan, from high school. My first Dead show—it sounds so cliché, but my life was forever changed.
Grateful Dead, Giants Stadium, NJ, June 1992, with my pals from freshman year: Dana, Melissa and Jon. We had floor seats. I heard my favorite song, “Shakedown Street,” and they closed with “Baba O'Riley.” Bruce Hornsby was on drums. This concert blew my mind—I can still picture myself dancing like a maniac.
The Black Crowes, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI, March 1993. I loved them at the time—their first album was so damn good. Despite the lame name, Hill Auditorium is among the Top 10 acoustics in the country (or was at the time). Balcony seats, damn fine concert (it was Dana’s birthday; I think she and Melissa left early to start a dorm party while Melanie and I rocked out.)
PHISH, Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI, April 1993. Tickets were $15.50 for students! I had tix for two nights. I missed the concert on the 17th because I fainted on the way in to the concert. The concert on the 18th was terrific—non-stop set list.
Grateful Dead, Buckeye Lake, OH, June 1993. I still smile when I think of this concert. Road trip from Ann Arbor to Ohio, with Dana, Melanie, Melissa, Danielle B, Stacey W and Stacy S. I flew in from my summer internship in D.C., ate a chipati, and we took off. Cheap motel, beautiful weather, the entire day outside. I remember we created our own bathroom by strategically opening side-by-side car doors. I also remember watching a stranger suck down a huge whip-it, then fall over like a tree (never understood the whip-it thing). The Dead were amazing that night. It took us five hours to drive out of the parking lot. Yes, it’s vaguely fictionalized in my novel.
Peter Gabriel, Capital Centre, June 1993. Incredible, life-altering concert.
The Allman Brothers, Beacon Theater, March 1996. Ah, the Allmans, live. I danced for 2 hours. Fantastic.
Indigo Girls, June 1997, Sony Studios, NYC, my first IGs concert. Steven and I scored tickets to a Hard Rock Live taping through the agency at which we worked. Stood on line for two hours, but then sat on the stage, two feet from Amy & Emily. I became a fan for life; this was the first of many concerts with Steven.
Natalie Merchant, June 1997, Town Hall, NYC. My sister got tickets at the last minute to a private, law-related benefit concert. Town Hall is beautiful, and the acoustics are outstanding. I loved Natalie at the time—this was an unbelievable, life-altering concert.
Natalie Merchant, The Supper Club, NYC, June 1998. I loved her. No one else could go. I went by myself. It was awesome.
James Taylor, Tanglewood, MA, August, 1997. If you’ve never seen JT under the stars at Tanglewood, you’re missing out.
John Mellencamp, Mercury Lounge, NYC, 1999. I actually went to see The Paul Rudderman Band—he was a guy who went to U-M, had a great band and was the opening act. The whole night was so cool; Mercury Lounge is small but not in a sweaty, claustrophobic way. John played every song we wanted to hear; it was like having him in my living room.
Indigo Girls, Central Park Summerstage, June NYC, 2000. My first Summerstage concert, with Steven, Nick, Aaron and Jessica. They played “Romeo and Juliet,” under a blanket of stars on a perfect June night. I think I cried.
Elton John, MSG, NYC, November 2001. My mother loves Elton, so starting in the late 1990s, whenever he came to town we’d get tickets and go as a family, including my brother-in-law. This was two months after 9/11; you could still hear the ambulance sirens as they traveled from downtown to the morgue on 1st Avenue, near my old apartment. Flags everywhere, “Missing” photos everywhere. No one has performed more concerts in NYC than Elton John (this is a fact—you can look it up), all of them at MSG. He hit the stage, announced that he, too, was devastated, but he wanted to lighten our load for a few hours—he proceeded to play the most incredible, life-affirming concert I’ve ever witnessed. He started with “Funeral for a Friend” and by the time he started “Philadelphia Freedom” three songs later, MSG was shaking—the building itself was trembling. He played “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” a love song to NYC and my favorite song of his; I cried, everyone cried. He played 28 songs. Life-altering concert.
Madonna, MSG, NYC, 2001. Her “Drowned World Tour,” and my first Madonna concert, with Ali and David. In junior high I was busy resisting anything mainstream, and in high school I was busy being a Deadhead (and playing tennis). It wasn’t until I saw her documentary Truth or Dare in college that I realized she wasn’t mainstream at all—she was the leader of her own brilliant rebellion.
Melissa Etheridge, Jones Beach, L.I., June 2002. My first Melissa concert (I was late to appreciate/love her), with Steven, tenth row seats, with the sea air whipping around us—she was f*#*ing unbelievable. The guitar, the voice—I was blown away. Her chords reverberated in my chest for days.
Bob Dylan, Southampton College, L.I., August 2002. This was an outdoor concert, a fundraiser; I knew the person producing the event. VIP all the way—parking, food/drinks, seating, port-o-potty (always nice to have a clean, air-conditioned bathroom at an outdoor concert!)—the only time I’ve been a VIP. I was accompanied by two awesome friends, Debbie and Angela, and stood 10 feet from Dylan! He played “All Along the Watchtower,” one of the greatest songs ever written, and “Tangled Up in Blue,” one of my all-time favorite songs. Perfect evening.
Indigo Girls, Central Park Summerstage, NYC, October 2003. This show was re-scheduled from August 14; the night of the blackout. Angela got a ticket at the last minute, since she was visiting me, and we went with Nick and Steven. They played “Mystery” and “Virginia Woolf” and “The Times They Are A Changin” (a Dylan song). It was ridiculously great.
Madonna, MSG, NYC, June 2004. Her “Re-Invention Tour,” with Steven. I’ve seen a lot of concerts, as evidenced by this list, which is just my favorite concerts, not all the concerts I’ve seen. When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, Madonna is it; her concerts are expensive, but she keeps four of your five senses invigorated for two hours. A Madonna concert is a journey, to paraphrase her words. And I’m not just writing this because I think she’s brilliant and she has maintained her artistic integrity throughout her career and she is possibly the most motivated person on the planet. She performs—she doesn’t just sing. She performs songs she has written (lyrics and music) and she never lip syncs. Her concerts are electrifying.
Madonna, MSG, NYC, July 2006, on her “Confessions Tour,” with Ali, David and Jenn. Crappy seats, fabulous show. New versions of “Let It Will Be” and “Erotica;” if those two songs don’t make you want to dance, nothing will. The 1-2-3 punch of “Let It Will Be” into “Music Inferno” into “Erotica” is fifteen minutes of sexy, stimulating dance music created by someone who understands the importance of sexy, stimulating dance music.
Natalie Merchant, Hiro Ballroom, March 2008, with Steven and Jason (my ticket was a birthday present from Steven). It was so cool to see Natalie after so many years, and she was terrific. It felt like the completion of something in my life (not sure what, but felt good).
Madonna, Roseland Ballroom, NYC, April 30, 2008, two hours after my second niece, Charlotte, was born. This was a “Hard Candy Promo Show”—no tickets were sold. Steven won tickets from Verizon Wireless—Roseland was full of crazy Madonna fans like us. Judge me if you will, but this concert was the best 26 minutes of my life (platonic minutes). I was on a natural high for a week, and a year later, I still tingle a bit when I hear the opening bars of “Candy Shop.”
Madonna, MSG, October 6 & 7, 2008, for her “Sticky & Sweet Tour.” Yes, I went both nights—the first with David and the second with Stacey, Nick and Steven. Her new version of “Borderline” was f*#*ing unreal, and “Like A Prayer” had me dancing and singing like a teenager. This was my favorite Madonna tour.
Indigo Girls, Highline Ballroom, April 15, 2009, with Steven and Nick. See blog below. We were ten feet away; the set list was fantastic. Can’t wait to see them this summer at Central Park Summerstage…