People go to concerts for many reasons. Usually it’s to see a band or artist you like. Other times it’s tagging along with your spouse, partner, or friends because of someone they want to see. For some fortunate folks, you may just live in a town that has a nearby amphitheater or active concert venue with cheap tickets available, and you wanted something to do.
Whatever the reason, my experience with concert-going has mostly been a rewarding experience. So what makes it enjoyable? Certainly not the concession prices. Usually not the parking situation. What exactly makes some concerts stand out from others?
The Headlining Performers:
My town is too small to have a steady stream of concerts coming through so I’m not a go-to-a-concert-just-because-I-can sort of guy. Of all the shows I’ve attended, I can only think of one where I tagged along. (My wife took me to see Dave Matthews Band once and I immensely enjoyed it!). No, in my life I’d say the concerts I’ve attended have been shows I wanted to see because of the specific performers up on that stage. This of course can be both rewarding or disappointing. If it’s a band or artist you really love and they put forth a shit performance it can be a real bummer. If it’s a great or even good show however, it sort of validates and strengthens the admiration you already have for that band.
The Opening Act:
First of all, I highly doubt many folks go to a show to see the opening act. Yet if the opening act is exceptional or even steals the show as they say, that can absolutely make a concert memorable. For me that was Lollapalooza 1993. Granted, festivals are different than normal concerts. A festival has many performers. Lollapalooza ’93 had eight bands on the bill. The closest thing to ‘headliners’ were the bands that performed last. The headliners in 1993 were Primus and Alice in Chains. The band no one had heard of yet, who at that particular time in the tour were opening the show, was a band from Los Angeles called Rage Against the Machine. They were the only performers out of the eight who didn’t even have a backdrop on stage. At first we assumed they were stage hands setting up for the first band, and then all of a sudden BAM! They just took off and blew the entire audience away with one of the most powerful and original-sounding performances I can remember. What do I remember the most from this all-day festival? The first 30 minutes. Rage owned it. The other acts were pretty good, but no one came close to the ‘opening act.’ Rage Against the Machine stole the show that day.
A great performance is great no matter where you see it. But a great venue can certainly make a concert more memorable. Like most people, I’ve seen my fair share of shows at the typical outdoor amphitheater. In Indiana it’s called Deer Creek (or at least it used to be prior to the three or four sponsor-purchased names it’s had since). It looks pretty much like the same one nearly every state has. Then there’s basketball/hockey arenas of course. Stage configuration and design can provide some variety, but an arena show is pretty much an arena show. I’ve found little acoustic difference from one to another. Unique settings however, can definitely make a concert more memorable.
Seeing PJ play historic Wrigley Field was memorable for many reasons. (Click the link to read all about this most memorable show)
Soundgarden in ’94 at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. This near-100-year-old theater was a dump 25 years ago, but man did it have character! You could just see and smell the history in that joint. Yeah it was hot and there weren’t any seats, but there’s also no other place that looks quite like it. Sometimes you remember the place almost more than the show itself.
Radiohead in Grant Park in 2001. Ok, I know it’s another Chicago example. I guess the coolest venues I’ve seen shows at have always been in the Windy City. The band was extraordinary, but that city skyline? Talk about a show-stealer! Just magnificent.
Sometimes it’s not just the performers or the venue. It’s the people you share the experience with. To be honest, I haven’t been to a lot of concerts in my life. Probably 30 or so. Sure I can remember who I saw and where I saw them, but I certainly can’t remember a great many details of the shows themselves. What I can remember very clearly though is who I saw those shows with. You remember the people. Maybe that’s not always a good thing. In my experience it has been. Part of what makes concert-going so great is being able to tell others about the shows you’ve seen. What’s even more special is being able to share those memories with those who experienced it with you.
I have no idea when live concerts will return. I have even less idea what they’ll look like when they do. They will come back one day. When they do I look forward to returning as well. Whether it be the headliners, the opening acts, the venues, or the friends……….there’s few things as memorable as a great concert!
Thanks for reading,