A couple weeks ago I had a guest speaker from an area college come to speak to my 11th graders. I had the same guy present last year. This time, Todd was in a particularly excited mood. The next day was his birthday, (48 years old) and his wife bought tickets to see Journey at their local arena in Ft. Wayne. The amazing thing is, this was going to be Todd’s first concert in his life! 48 years. Can you believe that?
This got me thinking about the concerts I’ve attended and that similar excitement I felt prior to so many of them. I’m no roadie, loyal follower, or concert-junkie. In my 42 years I think I’ve taken in around 25 or so concerts. My brother and sister-in-law probably saw that many in the past two years. Among those 25 or so I’ve only been disappointed a few times. I’ve been very fortunate in the quality of the concerts I’ve attended.
Lallapalooza 3 in the summer of ’93 was fun, but the first real concert I attended was Eric Clapton at old Market Square Arena in Indy that fall. (picclick.com)
This was in support of an all-blues album he released that year. By the end of the night “Slowhand” was doing things with the guitar I’d never heard before in person. Incredible performance. Incredible show. Many great guitarists have walked this Earth. You can argue there are guys as good as him, but I’ve never heard anyone better.
From there I’d go on to see quite a few shows during my college years. Several of these concerts were sort of bucket-list shows before the term was ever popular. In 1995 I saw Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Sting, and quite fortuitously, The Who, on a very limited tour date, performing their classic album Quadrophenia. But the biggest treat was a year earlier when, back at Market Square in Indy, I got to see Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.
I loved Led Zeppelin. Quite possibly my favorite band of all time. That ticket stub photo at the beginning of this post? Led Zeppelin in 1970. Oh if only! Of course I wasn’t born then! Yet, to get the opportunity to be in the same building as these two Rock Gods and see them perform was just amazing. Let alone the fact they sounded fantastic!
Then there was the year I saw U2 twice on the same tour.
The “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” tour in the early 2000s. The first (and only planned) show was at the United Center in Chicago. The atmosphere was great. Their performance was top-notch. Yet, we were literally in the last row of the arena. I’m not kidding. You could lift your arms and touch ceiling tiles. Fortunately, after the show we snuck on a service elevator we found and probably got out of the arena quicker than most of the folks in the good seats. Hey, at least we had that going for us!
The tour was a huge success, and eventually they came back around for a second leg. Believe it or not, they decided to play the Joyce Center at Notre Dame. Tickets were in high demand and difficult to come by, especially considering the small size of ND’s basketball arena. Coupled with the fact I’d already caught the show in Chicago, I had no plans to attend. Then a funny thing happened. A guy I taught with had a second job working for a concert security company. He hired me and several of my co-teaching buds to work the show. We had to be there four hours prior to the concert. Early enough to be in an empty arena watching U2 go through sound-check. How cool is that? Essentially, we got to stand relatively close to the stage, see the concert for free, and get paid like $28 bucks for “working” the show. Add to that, a guy tipped me $50 bucks for letting him sneak a girl into my section. What a night!
Other memorable concerts:
Soundgarden 1994 at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago
Radiohead in Grant Park, Chicago (chicagotribune.com)
Sammy Hagar (twice), Morris Civic Auditorium, South Bend
Van Halen, Deer Creek, Indy
Counting Crows, Morris Civic
Dave Matthews Band, Deer Creek
HOARD Festival, Deer Creek -The only saving grace was my introduction to Ben Harper and his amazing music. Everyone else sucked.
Coldplay, Deer Creek -Major disappointment here. Loved their first 3 albums, but they sucked in concert.
John Mellencamp, Joyce Center, South Bend -I know this one’s a surprise. Johnny Cougar is notorious for putting on great shows. This one was an hour and twenty minutes with no encore. It was his first tour back after suffering a heart attack. He had no energy. He returned to South Bend some years later, and I’m told the concert was tremendous.
Whitesnake, Star Plaza Theater, Merrillville, IN
Eddie Money, Heartland Nightclub, South Bend
Hey, how can you not love the Money man? haha!