Concerts are not always what we expect. Indeed they can be so fraught with the promise of excitement, that they turn into just the opposite. Understanding that some of the worst events have probably been permanently deleted from my brain, I offer the worst concerts which I remember:
10. Amon Tobin (Brooklyn Masonic Temple, October, 2011) A spinning electric thing mess that clacked and clanked, all so monotonous and loud.
9. Sebadoh (The Rage, Vancouver, September 1996) The highlight of the evening was the lead singer announcing that tour t-shirts were available “for anyone who still has a pulse.”
8. Bob Weir & Rob Wasserman (Ontario Place, Toronto, July 1990) Bob Weir should never play lead guitar nor sing Take Me to the River again. Ever.
7. Elton John (Barclay’s, Brooklyn, October 2013) The song-writing great went through his catalogue and butchered every last one. That wasn’t Rocket Man, was it?
6. Destroyer/Dan Bejar (Miller Theater, New York, September 2009) Bejar subjected the audience to a naval-gazing slide show and wincing music.
5. Cabaret Voltaire(Concert Hall, Toronto, May 1985) Arriving two hours late, the band played a haughty 45 minutes with slaughterhouse videos as a backdrop. No encore, thank goodness.
4. Bob Dylan & Tom Petty (BC Place, Vancouver, July 1987) Great music transformed into distorted abominations. Like a Rolling Stone wasn’t even decipherable.
3. Jimmy Cliff(Roman Amphitheatre, Carthage, July 1989) Cliff’s terrible Las Vegas style performance was undoubted torture for the performing ghosts from centuries past.
2. The Grateful Dead(Syracuse Dome, Syracuse, October 1984)Terrible sound and energy, low-lighted by Jerry Garcia missing verses and, in the end, unable to pick up his coffee off the amp.
1. The Who(CNE Stadium, Toronto, July 1980) A bitter experience with fights in the stands, hollow sound and the empty realization that live music was sometimes a terrible disappointment.
I have been obsessive with saving ticket stubs for over thirty years – a time frame that seems to parallel my rock collection. This isn’t to say I’ve saved every one of them, but I still have the stub from my first concert, The Who at Maple Gardens in 1980. There have been a lot of hockey games…a clear and intense obsession with The Grateful Dead…NCAA basketball…and more recently many shows at BAM, Carnegie Hall and the Met. Some events I remember better than others. Some I completely forget.They’re just pieces of paper, some just printouts, but still it’s good to remember where most of my money has gone.