Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll!

I absolutely love rock music.  Not a day goes by that I don’t listen to a old favorite or some mix of music on YouTube.  I attended my first concert at Jones Beach and saw David Gilmore.  The Pink Floyd guitarist lit up the night with soulful licks and perfect pitch.  Funny thing is that my knowledge of music was limited at 16, so I didn’t fully appreciate who he was and why he was one of the best.  The Stray Cats was my next concert and this one was really fun because I knew the music and my friends and I danced around all night.  MTV’s coverage of the Stray Cats’ videos and live performances added to my total enjoyment of a live show.

A lifetime later, I have attended a shit ton of concerts, seeing my favorite musicians and bands multiple times.  I believe I have developed a more refined taste for live music.  YouTube keeps adding amazing live shows and I believe there are just too many for any one person to view in a lifetime.  I will gladly share with everyone my favorite live bands and festivals that rock-n-rollers need to be on the lookout for.  There is no particular order, but I say without hesitation that my favorite musician is Jeff Beck.

The first time I saw The Who at Shea Stadium, I was given tickets by my sister.  She had purchased them while I was away working for the summer.  At that time, The Who was my favorite band and this was my first opportunity to see them, albeit without Keith Moon.  My mind was blown!  Since then, I have seen The Who 11 times and Pete Townshend another 3, but I will discuss Pete on his own later in this piece.  No band comes close to the power, quality, and sheer rock prowess.  This concert featured the legendary Townshend’s guitar smash and Daltrey’s mike acrobatics, with the thundering Entwistle bass in the background.  Few Who shows compare, mostly because I’m too young to have seen The Who at their peak.

Jeff Beck is my favorite musician and he just keeps getting better, I swear!  Each show seems to top the one before and, each time I’m able to worship at the electric church of this virtuoso, I thank the universe.  Perfect is the only word that describes this former Yardbirds’ guitarist.  Each note from his guitar is beyond tasty and always placed at the point of maximum impact.  I can’t remember a show where I wasn’t visibly sad when it was over.  Amazingly, each new album gives me a chance to see my favorite musician play new material, and each time it has been sublime. 

The Crossroads Guitar Festivals are all brilliant.  Featuring a list of who’s who of the music world, these three festivals showcased the best guitarists in the world.  Both young and old masters shared the stage to create the most memorable festival concert ever witnessed.  Unfortunately, I was only able to view the DVDs, but that did allow me to see artists from all 3 days of each of the shows.  Eric Clapton was the mastermind of these concerts and he was featured prominently in each festival.  I re-watch the DVDs once a year as they are just that good.

I saw David Bowie’s Let’s Dance tour and it was the only time I was lucky enough to see him.  Bowie’s band, his set, and his performance was done at an unbelievable level.  Bowie played 8 different instruments during the concert, each one better than the last.  His vocals were perfect, even with the crappy acoustics of the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.  During “Serious Moonlight” they let out giant glow balls for fans to bounce around the dome, really cool!  Bowie always gave a great show.

I have seen Sheryl Crow many times, starting with her first tour “Tuesday Night Music Club.”  I have seen her a half dozen times since.  Her talent is breathtaking and she performs her songs with skill and passion.  Her band is solid and she has been playing with the same group for over 20 years.  Crow sports different instruments during her shows, demonstrating her wide range of musical talent.  I have not been lucky enough to see her over the last few years, but i hope the Heart reunion tour where she is featured comes close to my home. That’s a show I would love to see!

My greatest concert experience was when my sister, who was working at a local radio station, gave me tickets and backstage passes to Pete Townshend’s “Psychoderelict” show at Jones Beach.  I took the woman I love (now my wife of over 22 years!) to the show.  She had never seen The Who, but had listened to a crapload of it since starting to date me.  She was really excited, but we were both not ready for what happened next!  The concert featured a stage play alongside the live music.  My girlfriend loved Broadway so this made her giddy with excitement.  Townshend played the whole Psychoderelict album and then played a bunch of old Who songs, I was blown away.  And this was not even the best part!

We used our backstage passes.  There, talking to a group of people, was Pete Townshend.  My girlfriend guided me to the line of autograph seekers and well-wishers.  With sweaty palms and a Mount Everest sized lump in my throat, I walked up to Pete and introduced myself and my girlfriend.  As we were walking away my girlfriend was smiling at me, she said I that was great and she was impressed with my interaction with my idol.  I smiled, it would take minutes to review the whole discussion in my mind.  I recalled that he was a kind man and thanked me for my personal connection to his music.  This was my rock-n-roll fantasy!

Live music is a energy shot to your soul and a way to change the mood of your day.  I have been to too many concerts to list them all but, I still feel a thrill every time I see music performed.  I always find myself singing along with the music like my friends from the Stray Cats were there.  To be part of the live music in some small way is a way to touch happiness, the momentary nature of it is what cleanses our souls.