Best Concerts I Ever Attended (1983-2015)

1. Ozzy Osbourne (1991) – There was just something magical about this show that no other show I ever attended came close to capturing. Prong opened and played a solid set, and then Ozzy played for about an hour and a half, including several Black Sabbath songs (lone disappointment: nothing from Diary Of A Madman). The venue (the small-ish Paramount Theater inside Madison Square Garden which seated around 5000) was perfect, and the crowd was simply insane, led by ringmaster Ozzy who let at least 50 people on stage with him (over the years as I’ve retold the tale of this concert it’s grown from 50 to 100 to about 500!). Complete bedlam was the order of the day, there was a lot of great music, and there was just a great vibe about this show, part of his so-called retirement tour that of course proved to be false advertising.
2. Smashing Pumpkins (1995) – I waited on line in the freezing cold for about 3 hours during my “lunch hour” to get tickets for this one (it was a raffle and they only sold 2 tickets per person), but my reward was to see one of my favorite bands, then arguably the biggest band in the world, at a very small venue (NYC’s now defunct Academy) during their Mellon Collie prime. I stood maybe 5 feet from the stage the whole show, during which the Pumpkins played one brilliant song after another.
3. Iron Maiden (1985) – This was my second concert, and first without my parents, so it was a big deal. We braved the freezing cold (thanks dad for driving and waiting for us!) to go to Radio City Music Hall, where we saw the legendary Live After Death/World Slavery Tour of 1985, when Maiden was in their unstoppable prime in support of Powerslave. Opening act Queensryche was impressive and would go on to great things as well.
4. Bruce Springsteen (1992) – I regret that I never saw Bruce with the legendary E Street Band, but I have to admit I didn’t really miss them on this night, as Bruce and his more anonymous sidekicks put on a great 3 hour show. You really have to see Bruce live to “get” what the big deal is, it’s almost like a religious experience, and this was the perfect setting: New Jersey’s favorite son playing the last night of a long homestand at Meadowlands Arena. I think he would’ve played for another 3 hours had the powers that be let him.
5. Journey (1986) – I was a huge Journey fan back then (still am, actually), and this night at Medowlands Arena they definitely delivered the goods, the highlight being “Separate Ways.” I’ll always remember coming home from this great concert just in time to see the famous Mets Game 6 rally capped off by the infamous Bill Buckner misplay, my friends and I then piling on top of one other in ecstatic disbelief (I’m a Yankees fan but root for the Mets too; plus two of my buds had tix to game 7). Hearing “Don’t Stop Believin’” always brings me back to that great night.
6. U2 (1987) – How often do you get to say you saw the biggest and best band in the world in their unstoppable prime? On this night, at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Arena, this was definitely one such time I could say it.
7. Megadeth (2004) – I’m guessing on the year here. This was the first of four times I’ve seen Megadeth, and the best one, at NYC’s Roseland. My friends and I all agreed it was one of the best shows that any of us had ever seen.
8. Alice In Chains (2009) – This was the “comeback” tour for Alice with their new singer William DuVal fresh off their surprisingly good (and successful) new album Black Gives Way To Blue. This was their first tour in over a decade, the guys were clean and sober (presumably), and they just reeled off one great song after another, the majority coming from Dirt, which is just how I would’ve scripted it. (P.S. The name of the venue escapes me but it was a good one.)
9. Metallica (1996) – When I saw Metallica in 1991 in support of The Black Album they were disappointing, so when I saw them at Madison Square Garden in support of an album I wasn’t very fond of (Load), my expectations weren’t too high. And then they blew me away. First of all, the giant stage was incredible, a real thing to behold, the set list was tremendous including most of the old favorites I wanted to hear, and the band were pumped up and had some cool surprises in store (like when a guy ran across the stage on fire!).
10. Motörhead/Dio/Iron Maiden (2000) – An excellent tripleheader at MSG, Dio was merely good but Motörhead, in particular drummer Mikkey Dee, was simply incredible, and Maiden was at least as good playing a “greatest hits” set that hit all the right high points.
11. AC/DC (1986) – Fly On The Wall was one of their weakest albums, but I guess they knew that as they only played three songs from it (the best ones). Otherwise we got one great song after another. Obviously Angus in particular is a great showman, and when they broke out the giant bell for “Hells Bells” and the fireworks for concert finale “For Those About To Rock,” well needless to say I have great memories of those moments (This show was at Nassau Coliseum; I also saw them in ’88 in Glens Falls New York and it was good but not quite as good overall).
12. Jethro Tull (1983) – You always remember your first one, right? Plus, Tull were great in concert, I’ll always remember some of the theatrical set pieces, and this one (presumably) drugged out fan who was going nuts in front of the stage. Mom and dad attended this one as well, for the first and last time! (P.S. At Nassau Coliseum)
13. Pink Floyd (1994) – This is the one stadium show (Giants Stadium) where I didn’t mind the gigantic size of the venue, since the giant inflatable stage props and video screens were an essential part of the overall experience. Great songs and solid performances too. Roger who?
14. Testament/Megadeth/Heaven & Hell/Judas Priest (2006) – You just can’t beat these multi-band bills, as the competition brings out the best in all the bands (who tend to play the songs everyone knows rather than try to plug the new album). It was great to see Dio back with Black Sabbath (albeit renamed Heaven & Hell) and in such fine voice (plus they proved they didn’t even need to play any of the Ozzy songs to put on a great show), and likewise it was great to see Halford back where he belongs with Judas Priest. Great show at a great venue (the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey).
15. Coldplay (2012) – This was the show, at Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center, that convinced me once and for all that Coldplay is a great band. Very creative use of the crowd to provide colorful backgrounds throughout (see the Coldplay Live 2012 DVD), and they played all the songs you’d want to hear, with “Fix You” being the predictable high point.
Honorable Mentions: My Morning Jacket, Anthrax/Megadeth/Slayer, Machine Head/Motörhead/Heaven & Hell, Zebra, Billy Joel, The Beach Boys, Rush, Motley Crue, Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, Foo Fighters.
Not Meant to Be: I was scheduled to see Soundgarden in 1997 but the band cancelled the show due to Cornell's alleged throat problems, and the band then broke up and never rescheduled. Also, I went to see R.E.M. in 2008 at Jones Beach, but there was a major thunderstorm and lightning actually struck the stadium! Had I been younger I probably would’ve waited out the several hour delay and eventually seen them, but by the time R.E.M. hit the stage after midnight I was probably in bed already! (Opening acts The National and Modest Mouse were good though.)

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