Aplscruf's Music, Art, and Literature Blog

Top 10 Live Shows

I thought I’d take a moment and share my top 10 favorite live shows.  Some are very specific by date and venue, and  some are by artist only.   This will change over time, I’m sure.  And after looking it over, I left out a few, such as The Rolling Stones in 1994.  That was a spectacular show, but it was in the Kingdome, and the band was about 1/4 mile away.  Didn’t really feel the love.  We saw Bruce Springsteen a few years ago, and I felt the same way.  Great, energetic show, but we were looking down on them from afar.  The lucky few hundred who got to be right against the stage, now they had a show to remember!

[You can also view this post and other reviews and features on Randomville]

Anyway, on with the list (all pics taken by me except Jimmy Buffett below):

Jimmy Buffett

10.  Jimmy Buffett – The man has paradoxically built an empire on the Margaritaville philosophy!  I’ve only seen him once back  in 2003, but was thoroughly entertained.  The show was pure fun, with hula girls, tiki gods and fire dancers.  And the Parrothead audience was a spectacle in itself.  He brought along a slew of veteran musicians and singers.  If you’re lucky enough to go to his show, his lead guitarist for the night might be Will Kimbrough, a talented musician, singer/songwriter and producer who has also collaborated on several songs with Jimmy.  You can forget all your problems for two hours Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays!

The Paperboys

 9.   The Paperboys – The Vancouver-based Paperboys have been lifting people’s spirits with their high energy shows for 16 years.  The eight-piece band plays in small venues in BC, Seattle and Portland, and captivates the audience with their joyful, upbeat and very eclectic music:  Mexican, Canadian, Celtic, and Reggae soup.  They make quarterly appearances at The Tractor Tavern in Ballard.

8.   Ryan Adams – – Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA January, 2008 – I smiled until my cheeks hurt.  Ryan brought along The Cardinals and tore the place up with songs from his album, Easy Tiger, along with many greats from his prolific song library and a few covers. He’s such a quirky character and a comedian, too–a sad clown.  The rest of the talented band seemed patient and knew when to wait for him to calm down, light his cigarette, have a little chat with the audience, etc.  I loved the train-wrecked Ryan, back when he could write a soul-crushing, alt-country song.  Glad he sobered up and married a pop star, because you know after the divorce, the songs will be good again.   

7.  Brent Amaker and the Rodeo Foot-stompin’, belt buckle-wearin’ cowboys in black.  The lead singer dons a red cape, has a stripper assistant and sounds like Johnny Cash–with a potty mouth. Campy country at its best.  A Seattle treasure.  Catch them at The Crocodile, The Sunset and other small venues throughout the year. 

Brent Amaker

6.  The Gourds Texas and Louisiana, sex and religion, country and rock, bluegrass and Snoop Dogg all rolled into a mandolin, violin, banjo, and accordion.  Their shows feel like an old-timey revival in the Deep South.  I get more salvation from their shows than I ever did in church.  The band’s motto: “For The Unwashed and The Well-Read. “  They’ve been featured at SXSW, Austin City Limits, and are regulars at The Tractor Tavern in Ballard, WA.  Yes, they’re the ones who covered Snoop’s “Gin and Juice” on mandolin.

The Gourds









5.  Old 97’s – Alt-country/rock, Texas-style.  Sweat, spit, roaring guitar riffs, and a faithful audience that knows all the words.  There’s even a glossary on their website if you need help understanding the lyrics.  See them LIVE one time, and you’ll want to follow them around the country.

Rhett Miller of Old 97's





4.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Anywhere!) – Tom and the band are American Icons.  Just go see them—anywhere.  The Gorge Amphitheatre in George, WA is a beautiful place to sing along to “Free Fallin’” while the desert sun sets behind the enormous stage.

3.  Todd Snider and the Nervous Wrecks at The Nugget, Sparks, NV 2009 – Wrecktacular.  The whole package.  Comedy, Americana, Folk, and Good Ol’ Rock-n-Roll.  And Will Kimbrough (the man gets around) on screaming, other-worldly guitar solos.  Todd’s solo show is also worth seeing.  He’s a Nashville transplant, originally from Oregon and plays the Northwest once or twice a year.  He can spin a yarn like no other.  Just get him started with stories about Slash or Garth Brooks, and you’ll think you’re at a stand-up comedy show.

Todd Snider and Will Kimbrough

2.  Sir Paul McCartney at The Tacoma Dome, WA 2002, – I was too young to see him when he visited Seattle in the 70’s.  To hear him play not only Wings songs but Beatles tunes with an incredible backing band, priceless.  And the show was a gift from my boss.  I pulled my hair, grabbed my face and screamed like it was 1964.

1.  Tom Petty with Mudcrutch at The Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA 2008 – Tom, 10 feet away.  My Musical Messiah–my Jesus of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  He smiled at me (ME!) and I was saved.  I can clearly remember standing there near the stage saying, “I can die now; my life is complete!” Tom reunited his old band (pre-Heartbreakers) and played a few gigs, mostly at The Troubadour, to support their new album.  Tom and the band, which included Mike Campbell on wicked guitar, seemed relaxed and happy.  No big light show, no grandstanding, just a regular band out to enjoy themselves and connect with the audience.  TEN FEET AWAY!

Tom Petty and Mike Campbell

February 8, 2011 Posted by | Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, Jimmy Buffett, Music, Old 97's, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, The Gorge Amphitheatre, The Gourds, The Paperboys, The Tractor Tavern, Todd Snider, Tom Petty, Will Kimbrough | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Concert December 15, 1994

Let’s go back a few years to 1994 when the Kingdome was still standing…

The Rolling Stones

Voodoo Lounge Tour

The Kingdome, Seattle WA

Thursday, December 15, 1994

I first heard rumors of the Voodoo Lounge Tour in the summer of 1994.  I thought, “Now, that’s a concert I don’t want to miss!”  I wrote in my journal back in September about my experience purchasing tickets for the concert after it was announced that the Stones were stopping in Seattle to play some Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Kingdome. [I need to find that journal–pretty sure I had to stand in a gigantic line in the wee hours of the morning at a Ticketmaster outlet, only to be handed a raffle ticket to determine my place in line]

MTV did a good job hyping the concert.  They even had a 1-800 number set up to purchase t-shirts and souvenirs.  They held interviews with each member of the Stones and followed along for videos of their live performances.  One of my favorite quotes from the session with Mick Jagger was when someone asked him if he still got stage fright.  Jagger quipped, “If you’re not nervous about performing in front of 60,000 people, you’re…you’re not functioning!”

The Stones were open in their interviews about their bouts with drug addiction.  All have sobered up, supposedly; although I wouldn’t take bets on Keith Richards’ sobriety.  He seemed a bit slurred in some of the shots of him in the trailer before rehearsals.

The next goal to accomplish before the concert is to find someone to go with me.  P was out; he had to coach wrestling that night.  An opportunity came up to invite my sister.  I found myself asking her out of the blue, after telling her P couldn’t go.  She gladly accepted, and that was the end of that.

When the night of the concert arrived, I found myself very nervous and excited.  I had to drive, which didn’t thrill me.  My sister arrived promptly at 6:30, only to find me rummaging around the house trying to find another pair of socks to wear with my boots.  Concert attire was the layered look, as it was quite cold and rainy that night, but would be much warmer in the Kingdome.

We finally got out of the house about 6:45, only to find ourselves completely stopped on the freeway.  We had to take I-405 and then cut across the I-90 bridge.  It was a nightmare.  It took us an hour and a half to arrive near the Kingdome.  The traffic was so congested on the off-ramp to the dome, that there was even a man selling bootleg t-shirts by walking down the middle of the two lanes of stopped traffic!  He had pulled his car off to the shoulder, grabbed some shirts out of the trunk, and managed to sell a few before traffic started slowly rolling forward.

We then found ourselves on the wrong street, stuck blocks from a traffic light.  My sister figured out where to go, and had me do a U-turn in the middle of the road.  I just knew I would get a ticket, but I think the cops had other things to do that night.  It turned out to be a good move, as we easily got back on the right road and to the parking lot.

We parked across the tracks, west of the dome, in her husband’s work parking lot by the pier.  We parked for free; Kingdome parking was $10.00!  We promptly trotted over to the sidewalk, through a back alley and found ourselves in a throng of people pushing their way to the gate.

Next to the gate was an outdoor t-shirt booth.  Mistake Number One:  I didn’t stop to buy one.  There was hardly a line!  I was just to frazzled to stop; I wanted to get to the dome!  It was already past 8:00 when we got there.  I was also worried about getting inside the dome with my cellular phone.  I didn’t know if it was “legal” to bring it.  I had it stuffed in a fanny pack [yes, this was the 90’s].  My worries were over when we arrived at the ticket gate.  All the security guards did was ask us to open up our coats so they could check for bottles or bota bags.

Once inside, we started laughing at all the wasted people weaving or stumbling around.  The crowd was mostly older, mid 20’s on up.  Some people looked like they were hippies once, and fell off the wagon and took up their drugging ways for this one night of Rock ‘n’ Roll history.  Some teenagers were there; some came with their parents!

We took a peek at the huge stage, saw no one on it, and inched our way to the restroom.  We finally found the end of the line and realized we would be there a while, about 20 minutes.  I happened to ask the woman behind me what the time was (8:15) and why the opening act, The Spin Doctors, hadn’t taken the stage yet.  She informed me they already played, and just finished at 8:10!  What?  We missed the opening act??  I thought the concert started at 8:00!  Nope, it started at 7:30, sharp.  I could feel my face getting red as I reached in my pocket for my ticket stub and realized Mistake Number Two:  I didn’t double-check the start time for the concert.  My sister laughed at this!  The lady was consoling, though, and told us they “…sucked anyways.  They were boring.”

The next anxiety attack was wondering exactly how long we would be stuck in the restroom line, and if we would miss the beginning of the show.  I made up my mind that I would have to break out of the line if it started.  I wasn’t about to be standing in a bathroom line when Mick historically took the stage!

Fifteen minutes later, we were finally at the entrance to the restroom.  We could see the stalls!  We could also smell puke, and see a very drunk girl being helped out of the room by her not-so-drunk girlfriends.  She had managed to barf into the large, round group sink.  We missed her performance by a matter of two minutes!  Immediately, two women in smocks entered with a large bucket of chemicals and dumped the contents into the sink.  “Ewwww,” everyone exclaimed, as the remainder of the pungent puke slowly filtered down the drain.  Five or ten minutes later, we were outta there, pushing and shoving our way back to our seats, on the three-hundred level, thirteenth row.

Wow, when we got there, we were pretty high up!  We were squished onto a bench between some mild-mannered 40-something men on our left and a single  man in his early twenties on our right.  My sister said the guy next to her looked like a carbon copy of Tom Hulce.  With the house lights still on, we got out the binoculars and examined the stage more closely.

I knew we were in for a show of our lifetime when I saw the setup for the stage.  It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  The news media had been talking about it for the past few days.  I saved a couple of the news articles.  It cost $750,000, if that’s any indication of the size and technology involved.  It looked like it was made completely of steel.  The backdrop was a steel screen, with square holes probably 4 feet in dimension.  The screen was curved at each end, like a piece of material that was blowing in the wind.  On the left and right sides in front of the screen were huge, cylindrical boxes that held lighting equipment, but were somewhat translucent, like glass blocks.  There was a huge video screen at that back of the stage and high above it.  The video screen was probably 20 feet high and 40 feet long.  There were speakers, huge ones, on the stage and all around it.  Also sitting on the stage, made out of what looked like sheets of steel, was a huge cobra neck and head.  The head, as it turned out, was equipped with lights that shot out in every direction over the stage and audience.  It also shot a giant red flame at the beginning of the show.

At 9:04, approximately 15 minutes after we found our seats, the show began.  And what a show it was!  It was beyond the usual rock concert package by a long shot.  When the house lights went off, the joints were immediately lit.  Hoo boy, we didn’t need our own, all we had to do was breathe!  Also, people flicked their lighters in unison as a show of anticipation for the concert to begin.

Suddenly, a huge, red flame shot from the metal cobra’s mouth;  and more fire came up from the floor and sides in a blinding light.  The crowd screamed with delight, and roared even louder as Mick and the boys strutted on stage.  Unfortunately, where we were sitting, they were only about half an inch tall!  Oh well, they were real.  The binoculars helped, plus the big video screen was a perfect addition to the show in that massive coliseum.

I couldn’t get enough.  Every time one song ended we were excited to hear another favorite.Some of the songs (somewhat in order) that they played were:  Not Fade Away/Tumbling Dice/You Got Me Rocking/Shattered/Rocks Off/Sparks Will Fly/Satisfaction/Beast of Burden/Far Away Eyes–before this song, Mick mentioned that they were going to do a “countreh” song next, and that he always thought of Washington as being a little bit “countreh”/Heartbreaker/Love is Strong/I Go Wild/Miss You/Honky Tonk Women/Keith Richards sang two songs–Before They Make Me Run and the Worst/Sympathy for the Devil/Monkey Man/Start Me Up, Only Rock ‘n’ Roll/Brown Sugar/Jumpin’ Jack Flash (encore).   Twenty-three songs in all, over 2 hours and 15 minutes long!

During the show, the large video screen would flash computer generated graphics of the spiked Rolling Stones tongue twisting and writhing around, cartoons, or live shots of Mick and Co.  They had at least three camera people running around the stage and behind it getting the best camera angles of Mick, guitar solos, etc.  Besides the usual Stones, there was also a brass section and two female backup singers who could wail.  During some of the songs, there were collages of pictures of The Stones or various themes.  “Honky Tonk Women” had the best video consisting of various women throughout history including porn stars to Queen Elizabeth to Mick and the boys in drag!  During “Beast of Burden”, a cartoon of a voluptuous woman’s body with the head of a bull and a devil’s tail danced and swung her tail around with her hand.  Mick jumped up on the ramp directly under the screen and sang the song.  They superimposed Mick’s image on the screen so it looked like he was right next to her.  The video editing was great.  They would freeze frame a good shot of Mick or one of the musicians hitting the last note of a song and leave it up on the screen until the next song began.

Other special effects included a beautiful light show with every song.  Each song started with a different color background lighting.  With the songs Shattered and Sparks Will Fly, the set lit up with sparks and bright white lights that temporarily blinded the audience. but everyone cheered even louder.

The stage lights went off one time, and then as they slowly came back on, something happened to the stage; something was moving all about it.  My sister grabbed the binoculars, watched for a few seconds, and then said, “You’ve gotta see this!”  Surrounding the top and sides of the stage were giant, parade-sized balloons in the shapes of creatures and people.  Elvis, with sneer, hair, and guitar was there; a skeleton with a top hat; a Hindu goddess with 6 arms; The Virgin Mary; a baby; a snake; a smaller cattle skull near the right side of the stage.  Wow.  They were inflated within 30 seconds.  Later, during one song, I believe it was “Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”, the balloons were moving to the music!  They had long cables attached to them controlled by invisible roadies.

Mick looked fantastic.  From far away, he looked very cute, athletic.  He had so much energy on stage; he never stopped moving.  He would strut, as usual, but would also skip across the stage and onto the extended arms on either side of the stage in order to get closer to the crowd.  At one time the screen showed a close-up shot of his upper body.  His arms were buff and the muscles were well-defined; but when they showed a close-up his face, I was almost repulsed for a moment!  Pretty scary!  He has lived hard, and it shows in the hard lines in his face.  He also made a few costume changes during the show.  He wore tight, black tuxedo pants with a blue stripe down the legs and silky tails and top hat.  One of his t-shirts looked like it was made of velvet.  Near the end of the show, he wore a kind of black skirt or kilt with tights underneath.  Only Mick could get away with that look and keep his masculinity intact.  He ruled the massive stage and kept 50,000 people completely engaged and energized.  His interaction with the audience was amazing.  He ran back and forth across the stage and got the audience on their feet during “Brown Sugar” singing, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, woooo!”

Keith Richards looked horrible!  We decided he looked like a grouper, the big-lipped bottom fish.  His guitar licks were clean, though, and we were amazed at his skill.  Although Keith didn’t smoke on stage, Ronnie Wood did bother to light up once, while Mick was introducing the band about a third of the way through the show.  He also played well, and with much energy.

My sister and I laughed so hard at the expressions on Charlie Watts’ face.  He always sucked in his cheeks and drew his lips wide across his face.  It looked hilarious!  She imitated him all night!  Regardless, he kept up the rockin’ beat for the band with his unique style.

We were so far away, we heard the actual sound about a second-and-a-half after he sang it.  We could watch his mouth move or follow his motions, but then the noise would be delayed.  That was irritating, but there was nothing we could do about it.

Another highlight of the show was when all four musicians, Mick, Ronnie, Keith, and their new bass player Darryl Jones lined up and played their guitars together.  The crowd went wild!  What a sight!  After the end of “Brown Sugar” the four of them bowed to the audience, Broadway-style; they lined up and bowed low together, with their arms around each other.  It was wonderful to see.  The rest of the group joined them.  Success was theirs!

The crowd cheered for an encore, and within two minutes they were back out playing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”  At the end, fireworks shot up from the sides of the stage.  It was beautiful.  They went out with a bang!

We sat there wanting more, but we noticed the house lights were slowly coming back on.  We waited a little longer for some of the crowd to clear out of the dome before making our long trek down the ramps and back to the car.  It was about 11:30 pm when we decided to make our move.  It took a long time to get out of there.  At one time, while stuck on the outside ramps, we heard cheering.  I assume that was because they spotted the Stones leaving in their limos, but we never got to see what the noise was all about.  We felt like cattle, stuck in the massive crowd.  We couldn’t really see where the crowd was heading, and decided it was probably toward a brick wall, just like what happened to the marching band in “Animal House!”

Before we could cross the tracks to get to the car, there was a train stopped directly in front of our path.  There were no boxcars on that section, just long flatbeds on which the boxcars would be placed.  People milled around and waited for the train to move, but after about five minutes, pairs of people started climbing up and over the flatbeds.  Mys sister and I watched couple after couple climb over.  Another few minutes and we were next to go.  We watched as the last couple ascended, but then disaster struck; the train started moving without warning!  The man tumbled down the other side, as the woman he was with fell on top of the flatbed, then crawled across it and finally jumped off the moving train.  We could hear the man, obviously a bit drunk, say to apparently the train:  “Oh, you’ve really pissed me off now!”   I had this vision of having to call 911 and being on the damn show!  I told my sister, and we started laughing hysterically as I acted out the 911 script for her:  “The sisters were next to cross over the train.  As they watched the last couple cross, suddenly the train moved forward and the woman fell underneath, getting crushed under the wheels.  She reached to pull the woman from underneath the train, but only an arm came out!”  etc.  We laughed so hard, but we were also very thankful that we hesitated and didn’t cross until the train finally moved down the tracks.

We finally arrived home after 1:00 am.  It took a while to get to sleep.  I’ll never forget the energy of that concert.  What an excellent 30th birthday!  In fact, on the drive home across the I-90 bridge, I looked down at the clock and realized it was the 16th–my birthday!  I whooped with joy to turn 30, something I never would have expected a year ago.  Long live the Rolling Stones!

August 25, 2010 Posted by | 1994, Music, Rolling Stones | , | Leave a comment