5 Top Concerts (off the top of my head)

I have been to countless live concerts. These are the top 5 that come to mind as most memorable, before any reflection changes my answers.

Beck and The Flaming Lips, Oakland Paramount (November 27, 2002) –  For a short while, Beck and the Flaming Lips, teamed up for a somewhat unusual tour. The Flaming Lips doubled as the opening act and as Beck’s backing band. The Lips started with a highly energetic show, coming off my two favorite albums of theirs – Yoshimi and the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin. I felt like I was inside of some euphoric, trippy kid’s party. The band invited 50 of their fans to dress up in animal suits and cavort around stage waving flashlights. The bassiest adorned his requisite skeleton costume and Wayne sang with a nun hand puppet to Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1. The song of the night for me, was the hopelessly happy, Race the Prize-with a wall of confetti and giant balloons inundating the place with strange animals dancing through it all. Beck then treated the crowd to a relaxed acoustic performance. a lone presence on the vast darkened stage…  a spotlight, stool and guitar. His stripped away folk songs like  Pay No Mind (Snoozer) / Round the Bend / Lazy Flies / Asshole drew me in, to bring a nice mellow end to the party. Then The Golden Age started and the Lips entered (with brilliant lights) to bring the song home. The concert turned again to a high energy stage show and the two acts played through a wide sampling of favorites, including tracks from Midnight Vultures and Odelay… and Beck can front a band, like the best of him. A hopeless geek with crazy robot and chicken-like moves mixed in with splits and footwork, as good as Prince. I’m serious! This was a long cry from that shy guy with a eight-track, at the Slim’s show I attended in the early nineties. Beck had a great sound that successfully mixed folk, R&B, rap and rock.

This was also my first visit to the historic, art deco Paramount. This just might be my favorite bay area venue. It was lovely-a really wonderful show for me. A scaled-down solo performance framed on both sides by two over-the-top stage shows = awesome!

Ween, The Fillmore, SF (October 12, 1996) – Ween had the strangest, psychedelic and troubling sound I had ever come across. Before I saw them touring with classically trained, Nashville session musicians- supporting their new 12 Golden Country Greats album; I really didn’t know what to make of them. The fiddles started playing for Japanese Cowboy and the memorable night started. They effortlessly went from country ballad, middle eastern chanting,  to a sea chanty and my mind was blown. These guys could create any music style and you never knew what whacked surprise your ears were in for next. They may be confused as “just juvenile boys” with songs like  Mister, Won’t you please help my pony and a ballad about a dog named Fluffy. They could be misconstrued as “outrageously offensive”  with Piss Up a Rope, in which the singer berates his bitchy girlfriend with words like “You can wash my balls with a warm wet rag” and “On your knees, you big-bootied bitch, start sucking.” In reality it is all shocking, harmless fun. If you are not in on the joke, you miss out.  More than blood-brothers, Gene and Dene Ween, are remarkably inspired, extremely talented and in it strictly for laughs. With the great Stew on slide guitar, this tops the many great shows I have seen them at. After all, this was the first time I heard The Mollusk, Ocean Man and the lighter-lifting, instant singalong, Booze me up, and get me High. What could these guys come up with next? I was in it, for the long haul, to find out.

Porno for Pyros and Cornershop, The Fillmore, SF (June 18, 1996) – I had completely missed out on Jane’s Addiction, or so I thought. Fortunately, Perry Farrell’s next band Porno for Pyros was just as compelling. I had heard stories of the great performances, the father of Lollapalooza had put on. Ice-T, an artist worlds-away, would never miss watching the performance from backstage. I was thankful to be in familiar comforts of the Fillmore, and not a 60,000 capacity outdoor stadium. Farrell has the most unique, haunting voice I have heard and he knows the power he has over people with it. Like a mystic puppet-master, he manipulated us all that night. Leaving for long periods and then raising up from the stage to howling applause. Any others, would have me heading for the back or the bathrooms in impatience. I was not moving. From the opening song, Porpoise Head, I was transfixed and might have peed myself for all I knew. It all seems like a  dream and I have no recollection of the Indian sounds of british indie group, Cornershop. A shame. Their album, When I Was Born for the 7th Time, is a album I still enjoy listening to.

Pink Floyd, Oakland Arena (December 4-5, 1987) – By high school, I had almost completely abandoned the pop sounds of the eighties and the huge influence MTV had over me. The late sixties and early seventies had the best music. The rock legends, the real musicians. Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and of course….. Pink Floyd.  When The Wall and Animals was in regular rotation, the unthinkable happened. Pink Floyd had come back.

With a recently acquired driver’s license, friend and I entered the unknown. It was a school night. We had no tickets. But that could not stop the floating pigs, the size of blimps. The teacher. The sound of David Gilmour’s guitar. The most technologically advanced laser show took me another place. A audio and visual feast for a stoned, pimply-faced teenager. Brilliant! We had to come back the next night, to experience it all over again. Screw the money, parents, schoolwork….this was important. We had scalpers to locate.

Day on the Green #3, The Police, The Fixx, Madness, Oingo Boingo, and The Thompson Twins, Oakland Coliseum  (September 10, 1983)- You never forget your first concert. Bill Grahmn’s epic daytime summer concerts ruled the eighties, and we got to go with the big kids. Every Breath You Take ruled the airwaves and some guy, we called Joe Elliot, drove us there in the back of a Datsun stationwagon. Hold Me Now, Our House, One Thing Leads to Another, King of Pain. That’s those guys from television! We have to get the t-shirt! We were like obnoxious tourists.

Honorable Mention: Foo Fighters, The Fillmore, SF (July 26, 1995)


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