Growing up in a family of music lovers, I’d often marvel at the stories of my parents about artists I’d never get a chance to see. My father would talk about the talents of Sam Cooke and Duke Ellington, while mom remembers fondly the first time as a teenager seeing a James Brown show.
As the years pass for me, I look back at quite a few special moments seeing artists performing live at times in their careers when everything came together.
With I Tunes devices holding thousands of songs, surround sound systems at home and car audio that can rock a city block, one would think the concert would be a thing of the past. However, it’s just the opposite.
Touring has replaced record sales as a star artist’s source of revenue and labels offer “360 deals” that offer more “up front” money in exchange for raking in some of the touring profits that were formerly most often spit between artists and local concert promoters.
Perhaps it’s the excitement of you and thousands of your friends witnessing a special musical/visual moment. Maybe it’s just getting out for an evening and forgetting all the challenges of work, home-life and bills. Music IS special but LIVE music (at it’s best) can change your life! That said, here are the top 10 concerts that enriched my life.
The Jackson’s “Victory Tour”:
My grandfather stood in line on a hot Spring day for over 8 hours in 1984 to grab $30 dollar seats (one of the highest priced concert tickets of that era). But seeing the Jacksons onstage with Michael having a special set “moonwalking“ to his hits from Billie Jean to Thriller in front of 80,000 at the University of Tennessee’s football stadium was something to behold. That evening was an example of just how far God given talent can go when it’s combined with superior work ethic.
Prince-The Purple Rain Tour
This tour, a Fall follow-up to his Summer 1984 cult-classic movie was a spectacle of sound, light, showmanship and pursuit of pure excellence. With Sheila E as his opening act, I never quite got that night of music out of my ears.
I went because I girl I liked at the time asked me to go. At the time I saw her, Tina was in her 50’s, yet spent at least 2 hours on stage dancing non-stop in stilettos. Her energy, beautiful body, spot on vocals and execution were second to none! I was hooked from start to finish!
You sit in awe while this incredibly beautiful voice and woman changes outfits every couple songs, as the colorful atmospheres take you from New York to Paris. And her band is as tight as they come.
Seeing them in 1983 in my high school gym made me a devotee of what was still thought of as a “fad” by our parents. The Adidas shoes, chains and German Cazal eyewear changed street fashion as much as the late Jam Master Jay inspired generations of celebrity DJ’s and producers.
Ron on stage with his brothers was a miracle in itself. A group (reportedly on stage together as early as 1957), were amazing even in the early 1990’s! And Ernie Isley, who’s guitar solo on Summer Breeze still stuns, made you wonder if he picked up some lessons from the great Jimi Hendrix whom he claimed as a friend.
Luther and his amazing back-up singers stole your heart fast with pure singing, interaction, and Luther’s amazing renditions of his songs, which were sometimes even better live than recorded.
Earth Wind & Fire (with Maurice White-early 90’s)
Maurice White hasn’t performed with the group he founded in many years due to illness and what a loss. The combination of both White and Philip Bailey was something that remains unmatched in their later years. Even so, their concerts still continue to serve as a guide for putting on a show people will pay to see again and again.
There’s a reason virtuoso jazz musicians including Branford Marsalis, the late Kenny Kirkland, Darryl Jones, Omar Hakim and others lined up to be part of his bands after the Police. I saw Sting’s “Ten Summoner’s Tales” tour in New Orleans in 1993 and was transported into another world. Sting’s ability to tell stories of love and loss through music is a gift few possess.
Maze Feat. Frankie Beverly
Maze live in New Orleans was always a special occasion and my early 90’s experience at the Saenger Theater (where they recorded their great “live” album back in the 80’s) made it even more special. Maze was one of the only groups who could sell out shows in the Crescent City several times each year without much marketing.