Hello Wisconsin! Bands that impress in concert
I get excited when one of my favorite bands releases a new album. I don't necessarily wait in line at midnight to get a copy (do they even do that anymore?), but there is a certain amount of enthusiasm. It's not just because there will be new songs, new ideas and new feelings. It's because I know it means that they will soon be on the road, hopefully coming to a venue nearby.
These days, between the obligations of family and work, as well as the financial aspect, I don’t get to as many concerts as I’d like. I do try to fit in a few here and there. I think that in my 32 years of existence, I've fit in a fair amount of great shows. Here are a few that stick out in my mind.
U2 1992 – My first concert experience, and it gets no bigger. Stadium shows are a kind of a bizarre way to baptize yourself into the world of live performance, but U2's Zoo TV Tour show at Madison's Camp Randall Stadium left a huge impression. Even though we were at the opposite end of the stadium, the show was absolutely fantastic and the root cause of my nearly 20-year obsession with the band. I've seen U2 eight times since then, in both arenas and stadiums, with one of the best being at Milwaukee's Bradley Center in 2001 when I was within high-five distance of the band. In my opinion, there is no better live band.
Van Halen 1995 – Back in the mid-90s, I was a huge Van Halen fan, trying in vain to learn every one of Eddie's licks on my guitar. It was all due to seeing them on their last “real” tour with Sammy Hagar, at Alpine Valley. In my opinion, it was the band at its peak. I’m sure this year’s tour with David Lee Roth will be great, but I’m a bit past the Van Halen stage of my life.
Ozzfest 1997 – I'm not exactly a metalhead, but when my friend and I were able to score tickets within the first 20 rows the day before the Alpine Valley show, we took it. It was a lineup that included Type O Negative, Marilyn Manson, Pantera, Ozzy Osbourne and a re-formed Black Sabbath. Pantera blew everyone away. Certainly one of the tightest live bands I've ever seen. Marilyn Manson won the scare factor award, although they much better live than I expected. We were actually kind of scared when they took the stage. Pretty creepy.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band 2003 – I saw the Springsteen during the E Street Band reunion tour of 1999, but the show at Milwaukee's Miller Park in 2003 was just awesome. It was nearly 3 hours long and they played just about every song you would want to hear. However, seeing it with the Springsteen fan I coerced into going was the best part. I haven't made it to a Springsteen show since then, but hope to this year even though it won't be the same without Danny Federici or Clarence Clemons, who have been lost along the way.
Pearl Jam 2006 – I had been a Pearl Jam fan since their debut album. I remember buying their second album the day it came out, but I kind of lost track of them in the years before seeing them live. My friend who took me to the show at Chicago’s United Center had seen the band numerous times before, and promised I wouldn’t be disappointed. How right he was. A simply phenomenal live band, who played an incredible career-spanning set list. I’m still disappointed I missed their 20th anniversary shows last year at Alpine Valley.
Coldplay 2009 – Once again, haters can hate, but this band is simply amazing live. Period. I've seen their evolution though Milwaukee-area venues, first at the Eagles Ballroom in 2003, to the Bradley Center in 2006, to Alpine Valley in 2009. My wife and I smartly got pavilion seats, and since it poured with rain for about half of the show, we were certainly glad we did. With all of its shortcomings (the parking, the security, the claustrophobia-like atmosphere on the lawn), Alpine Valley is a spectacular, world famous venue. And it's only 40 miles from here!
I'm looking forward to seeing The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys this May at the Bradley Center. I’d love to go see Roger Waters’ “The Wall” show in Chicago as well as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds in Milwaukee. The closest Radiohead is playing is St. Louis, so that’s not going to happen. If Tool plays anywhere near here, you can bet I’ll hit that one up.
What bands have you seen that blew you away? Is there a particular venue you prefer? Are there any tours you are looking to attend this year?