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The Magnificent Seven – My Favorite Concerts

Bottle Rockets













Recently, Iman Lababedi wrote an overview of his favorite concert experiences and tossed out the Pepsi Challenge for me to do the same.  My list is much more limited, since many places I have lived are not exactly live music meccas (ladies and gentlemen, I give you MANHATTAN, KANSAS) and I’d rather not skip meals to attend arena shows.  Here are some highlights over the past three decades.

Cheap Trick, 1981, Memphis.  The Tricksters were this poor boy’s teenage Beatles and seeing them live for the first time was pure bliss.  I clapped so hard during the opener, “Stop This Game,” that my hands hurt.  After the show ended, I screamed “NIRVANA!”  Kurt Cobain was unavailable for comment.

Nick Lowe, 1984, Memphis.  Nick the Knife was opening for Elvis Costello on the Goodbye Cruel World and gave one of the best, straight ahead, no nonsense, stripped down adjective filled performances I’ve ever seen.  Man, I wish I could carry that show in my pocket like a time capsule and play it whenever I’m in the DMV line.

Joe Ely, 1993, Portland, Oregon.  Ely had an excellent band in the early ‘90s and song selection was never a problem.   He mesmerized me with the opener, “The Road Goes on Forever,” and his hard charging Tejas rockers spent all night in overdrive.  Having the opportunity to regularly see Ely in small venues is one of the best things about living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  That and the deep-fried Oreos at the State Fair.

Cheese Pizza, late 1990s, Quad Cities.  Cheese Pizza was a cross dressing bar band that specialized in hard rock covers of ‘70s cotton candy like “Kung Fu Fighting” and “Delta Dawn.”  Honestly, hopping up and down and high-fiving complete strangers during “Hang On, Sloopy” is one of my favorite live concert memories.  Ask someone from Moline about the special female audience participation segment at their gigs.

The Bottle Rockets, 2005, Springfield, Illinois.  Version 2 of the Bottle Rockets had just been finalized with Keith Voegele taking over the bass duties after John Horton had taken the second lead guitar slot in 2003.  Rocketmeister Brian Henneman can channel the spirit of Neil Young like he was born in pure Canadian flannel and the band ripped into a earth shaking version of “Hey Hey, My My” during the encore.  It literally felt like the bar’s foundation was swaying with the music.

The Drive-By Truckers, 2009, Dallas.  A DBT gig is a hit or miss affair, depending on their mood, setlist, and level of self-medication.  Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley switched lead vocals all night and local friends Slobberbone joined the stage for a Southern rock guitar orchestra.  When Hood slid across the stage on his knees during the solo of “Let There Be Rock,” it was a Springsteen like music as messiah moment.

Willie Nelson, 2010, Thackerville, Oklahoma.  One night after being busted for pot at a Texas border crossing, Nelson played one of the most jaw gapingly stunning shows I’ve ever seen at a ridiculous Red River Casino gig.  It was like Willie said, “I am America, here is our music” and off the cuff played a deep, diverse, and deeply moving set.  Nice to see someone live up to their legendary status.

Honorable Mentions:  The Pixies, They Might Be Giants, The Neville Brothers, Ike Turner, Spoon, The Flatlanders, Los Lobos.

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