As told to: Staff Writer
Last spring, I happened to be talking to Darcy Regier, the former Buffalo Sabres general manager, for a feature on Jim Corsi with whom he’d had a long professional association and developed a real fondness for. Regier and Corsi were in on the early days of the hockey analytics craze; and at the moment Regier returned my call, I’d been busy brainstorming an idea that had been percolating for a while.
Music and sports – they’ve always been the twin pillars of my life; and so, for my 60th birthday, I figured I would compile a list of my 60 favourite concerts of all time, knowing that I chanced to see a lot of them while on the road covering hockey for the Calgary Herald and later the Globe and Mail.
Darcy laughed and said that it wouldn’t be something he could do, as he likely hadn’t been to 60 concerts in his entire life – that he usually enjoyed them when he went, but it was never something that defined him the way it did me, and some of my friends.
From the time I was 10, I was listening to music, first on CHUM 1050 in Toronto, and then, as I got older, on records, 45s, 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs and now musical downloads. It’s been a rewarding, expensive hobby. Some of the best years came soon after I moved from Calgary to Toronto; I was housemates for two years with James Muretich, whom I’d helped get a placement as the music critic for the Calgary Albertan (we’d become friends in grad school together at the University of Western Ontario). For those two years, James got every record free for review purposes; and I was often his plus-one when he got tickets for all the shows that passed through town.
Over the years, Doug Gossen has been my most reliable musical companion because neither of our spouses were as keen on the concert scene as we were. Doug was part of a fabulous DJ gig on CHFM – Doug and Linda Hart, “doing it in the morning” was their slogan. And of course, I’ve been dragging my kids Adam and Paula to shows from the moment they started to care about music too.
As with my annual “best of” compilation, I had to set my own ground rules about how to approach this project – and the hardest decision to make was whether an artist could appear on the list twice. Because for some, especially those at the top of the list, they would. At least two of the times I saw John Fogerty and three of the times I saw Bruce Springsteen would crack the top 60. Arbitrarily, I decided — because too many shows were falling through the cracks already — that it would be 60 shows by 60 different artists, with a few honourable mentions thrown in just to ease my conscience.
And so, with no further preamble, here’s what I came up with:
1. John Fogerty, Molson Amphitheatre. With Adam, Paula, Monica, Dan, Lisa and Stephen, summer of 2008. It was the first time I’d ever seen Fogerty live and it was sensational – he played everything you wanted to hear from the Creedance catalogue, a bunch of great songs from his solo years and one memorable treat: he covered The Beatles’ “When I’m 64″ because he’d turned 64 that year. Brilliant – and also inspirational. If he could be that good at 64, why couldn’t we all? Honourable mention: Fogerty at the Beacon Theatre with Lisa Nov. 13, 2013, when he covered Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”.
2. Bruce Springsteen And the E Street Band, Rogers Centre. Friday Aug 24, 2012, with Adam, Paula and half the hockey writing community.
Here’s how it unfolded. Lisa and I were at Bob McKenzie’s cottage earlier in the summer and he happened to mention that Springsteen was coming in August. I did the math in my head and realized Paula – who was coming to our cottage in the Kawarthas for a handful of days that summer – would actually be in town. I’d always promised myself that I would take my kids to see Springsteen once while he was still touring, on the grounds that everybody should see as many living legends as they can; and while there’s still time. Paula and Adam went to Canada’s Wonderland that day; we had dinner at Note Bene beforehand (all of us really underdressed, and the staff was cool with that). We had standing room, right by the stage (only $800 for the three, on Stub Hub), and at one point, when Springsteen wandered into the crowd, we were only a few feet away.
Some generous reader took a photo of the moment and sent it along. Three-plus hours of high energy non-stop rock; we were bagged by the end of it, but nobody cared.
Honorable mentions: (a) Springsteen, Mile High Stadium, Denver, around 2001. The second show after Warren Zevon’s death. Springsteen covered My Ride’s “Here” two nights previously in Toronto, but opened the Denver show with Bob Seger’s “Get Out of Denver”. Another one of those serendipitously timed shows. I happened to be there to cover the Colorado Avalanche training camp and David Leeder, the Globe’s assistant sport editor, alerted me to the show. I didn’t decide to attend until the afternoon of the show, before making sure I had all my work done and lucked into front-row tickets. The musical highlight: “Night”, a deep cut from Born To Run, only time I’ve ever heard him sing it live.
(b) Springsteen, Los Angeles Sports Arena, April 26 2013, with Lisa. His first encore was “California Sun”. Most people who attend Springsteen concerts can usually identify every song within the first half-second; this time, there was a puzzled collective hush when it started, but I turned to Lisa triumphantly and said: “The Rivieras, ‘California Sun,'” and it was.
3. Dire Straits, Olympic Saddledome. With Doug, Al Strachan and Mary. Seventh row. Here’s what I remember about this show. Mark Knopfler is right there, among my top five artists of all time, and I was determined to see the show. But these were the days before the Internet and Stub Hub, so getting great seats to hot shows was problematic. Happily, Maureen, a friend of Mary’s suggested I call the Ticketmaster outlet in Red Deer at the precise time tickets went on sale, because the phone lines would likely be less jammed than they would be in Edmonton. A brilliant suggestion. I called right at 9:30, was put on hold for 30 seconds. The operator came on the line and I ordered four tickets for Dire Straits, best available. “Seventh row OK?” she said.
Strach had been at a ski camp with Dave Irwin that day, and was battered and bruised, but he drove down for the show anyway. Mary started to enjoy it more after a security guard graciously gave her his earplugs. It was loud.
Honorable mentions: Knopfler in Vegas with Lisa, Knopfler in Calgary opening for Dylan, with Doug; and Knopfler at the Molson Ampitheatre, with the kids and the Massaros. That night, he played my five favourite songs, all in succession, all right off the hop, as if I’d programmed the set list myself.
Pretty damn great, all of them.
4. Jimmy Buffett, Maple Leaf Gardens Concert Bowl. With cousin Frank, St. Patrick’s Day, 1978. I was going to Western at the time and drove in for the show. Margaritaville had been a hit, and Buffett was touring in support of “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor”, but he hadn’t really hit the big time yet. In fact, he played the concert bowl (The Gardens shrunk in half by curtains) because he couldn’t sell out the Gardens fully.
That was my first exposure to the depth of his catalogue – that there’d actually be a first act prior to Margaritaville and well before the Parrothead phenomenon had developed. I left the Gardens, walked down Yonge St. to Sam The Record Man, and at only $2.99 a pop, bought all the early albums. My conversion to the gospel according to Jimmy was complete within a week. As many of you know, for me, there is a Jimmy Buffett line suitable for pretty much every occasion. My most quoted: “I’ve had good days and bad days and going half-mad days.” That’s gotten me through a whole bunch of bad- and going-half-mad days over the year.
Almost too many honourable mentions to mention because all the Buffett shows have been great, but here goes: Buffett in Tampa 2X, once with George Johnson and Grant Pollock; and what a hoot that was, touring in support of “Don’t Stop The Carnival”, playing “Twelve-Volt Man” as his encore. Buffett in Vegas 2X , in Toronto 2X and just last month, in Santa Barbara with Lisa.
5. The Pretenders, Casino Rama. The 16 years of traveling the NHL beat with my old pal George Johnson, who often dealt with migraine headaches and couldn’t get out, taught me that it was absolutely OK to go to shows by myself. You always run into like-minded people and once the music starts, you can immerse yourself completely in it. For years, The Pretenders were my favorite band that I’d never had a chance to see; I kept missing them; they cancelled a Calgary show once, when James Honeyman Scott passed away. So when they announced the Casino Rama show and the kids were too young to gain admission, I went by myself – and had a single seat in the far right corner. Still great.
It was the night Chrissie tried to cover “Angel Of The Morning” and forgot the opening verse. At one point, she also welcomed us – as most rockers do – by saying “Hello, Orillia!” Of course, there wasn’t a single person there from Orillia; she had to be extremely puzzled why it didn’t elicit the usual huzzah.
6. ABBA, Northlands Coliseum, Sept. 13, 1979. First-ever North American show by the Swedish super group (the tour was in support of Voulez Vous). The only time I’ve ever been accredited as a photographer to a major rock show. James was reviewing it; I went up with him to take the pictures; and we were both at the opening press conference, along with the heavyweights of the rock press because this was, after all, their first ever concert tour to Canada and the U.S. Security wasn’t like it is today; and everybody accredited to the event could saunter up to the microphone and ask whatever they wanted.
James, of course, immersed in the punk ethic, wanted to know if they thought their music was still relevant in this day and age. I asked something along those lines too. We were just too bad ass for words. Despite our tone, the members of the band were unfailingly polite in their answers. It was my first contact with Swedes; since then, just about all the Swedish hockey players have proven to be equally genial to deal with.
Afterward, I said to James, “you know what, we’re a couple of assholes.” The photographers were booted out of the pit in front of the stage after three songs, but we got nice seats in about the 10th row. I sat there and listened to the music instead of just dismissing it out of hand, and found myself enjoying it in a top-tapping way. Ever since, ABBA has been a guilty pleasure.
7. Paul McCartney, Air Canada Centre, August 8, 2010, with Adam, Paula, Lorne and Kathy. Kathy got us on to this one; she saw the Beatles tour in the mid-1960s, lucky so-and-so. I always liked McCartney, but he wasn’t on my must-see list until I actually saw him and his band. I was blown away by his singing ability; the depth of the catalogue; and the playing ability of his band.Probably the best show ever, if you measure the difference between your expectations and your enjoyment of the actual event.
8. Brian Wilson, Molson Amphitheatre. Opening for Paul Simon. Mary and I went to see the show on the first day of summer vacation, and the kids stayed with Mom and Dad. The only concert I’ve ever been too that started early. We were on the grass at the Amphitheatre when suddenly Brian Wilson rushed on stage; gave a weather report – thunderstorms were coming – so they were starting early. He sang every song off a teleprompter, but man, could he write and could he sing. The encore was one of the most unexpected moments ever – members of the Barenaked Ladies raced on stage and did a duet with Brian on their song, Brian Wilson (“lying in bed, just like Brian Wilson did …”) And then the rains came during the Paul Simon set, turning it into a pagan festival.
We left before the end, the sounds of Graceland echoing through the Exhibition Grounds as we caught the GO Train home.
9. Roy Orbison, Johnny Rivers, Peter Noone, Ronnie King at the Calgary Herald High School Reunion promotion. Calgary Corral, after the Oilers won the 1988 Stanley Cup. In those days, the Calgary Herald had a brilliant promoter named Pat McMahon, who’d previously written a city column for the paper. It was the era when newspapers used a lot of contests to try and drum up circulation; Pat hit upon the idea — in conjunction with a local radio station — of giving away every seat in the Saddledome for a Beach Boys concert. He explained it to me this way: We could give $10,000 or a house away and make one reader happy, or give away 9,000 pairs of tickets to the Beach Boys and make 9,000 readers happy.
The Beach Boys promotion was such a massive success that he dreamed up the High School Reunion party as a follow-up. It too was brilliant; and he managed to book Roy Orbison just days before his turn with The Traveling Wilburys revived his career. So here was Roy, the final act of an unbelievable show, singing “Pretty Woman” and “Cryin’” while we’re dancing to the music, the Corral turned into a high school gym. Gillian Stewart and Catherine Ford both gave me their tickets for the event, because I’d been covering the Final up in Edmonton until the day before the show. It was always my goal to see every member of the Traveling Wilburys before they died.
Got them all, except for George Harrison…
10. Gordon Lightfoot, Massey Hall, Winter of 1976. For the debut of the Wreck Of the Edmond Fitzgerald. I used to go the annual Gordon Lightfoot shows at Massey Hall, and in those days, ticketing was all done by mail order. So you’d call the box office after Christmas, and they’d tell you: tickets are $5.50 $4.40 and $3.30 this year; send a check for the dates you want and usually sometime in January or early February they’d arrive in the mail. That year, I ordered two pairs – I took a friend from university, Cathy Osborne for the first show; and Monica, my sister to the second.
Cathy and I were in the fourth row. Gordon opened with one of his hits and then explained that he was debuting a new song that would be on an album to be released later in the year. He told the story of a freighter that went down in Lake Superior a couple of months earlier and proceeded to sing the song. Nobody’d ever heard it before, but his voice was so clear and the acoustics so good in the hall that you understood every word. It was moving, breathtaking – and of course, no one knew when it was over. You know how usually, the applause starts before the song ends? Here – and I’ve never seen this – there was dead silence for … thousand one, thousand two, thousand three. It seemed endless – and then the place exploded in a standing ovation that lasted longer than any I could remember. Lightfoot seemed genuinely taken aback. I think right there, he knew he had written something special.
Two nights later, I warned Monica what was about to happen and it unfolded in exactly the same fashion. Never forget that moment, for as long as I live, the loudest silence I’ve ever heard.
11. The Rolling Stones, Commonwealth Stadium, September 1994. With the crew from CFR, Kelly Kirch now the program director at The Fan, was our designated driver. It was the first day of the NHL lockout and Dave King didn’t want to attend and instead stayed to break down tape. Linda, his wife, did go – she sat behind us.
12. Doug & The Slugs. McEwan Hall Ballroom. Backstage pass, with James, met Doug Bennett and the boys. James had arranged a contest through the Sun, and the winning entry was a small slice of bologna wedged inside a matchbook cover. Everyone thought that was inspired. It was the era of Too Bad.
13. Elton John, Scotiabank Saddledome, by myself, floor seats, decided to go at the last minute after missing out on Elton about 30 years earlier; lined up most of the night to see a show at Maple Leaf Gardens during the height of his popularity, only to have it sell out when I was within 100 people of the box office. Crushing.
14. Fleetwood Mac, Northlands Coliseum, Go Your Own Way tour. One of the times I made the trip up with James. Went mostly to hear Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks sing but came away impressed with Lindsay Buckingham’s guitar-playing chops.
15. Hippie Fest, Molson Amphitheatre. Adam, Lisa and Paula dressed up in authentic hippie garb. Country Joe was the MC; he introduced the opening act, came out and played the Fish Cheer earlier in the show and then completely disappeared, without explanation. The Zombies were the best act on the stage, though the remnants of Badfinger and The Turtles were pretty damn good too.
16. Rock and Roll Oldies Show, Hartford, Connecticut. The Turtles, Lou Christie, Chubby Checker, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap. After dinner at Margaritaville in the mall outside the Hartford Civic Centre, saw a crowd marshalling for a show. George begged off, so I bought a single ticket near the stage and sang and danced my ass off all night.
17. The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over Tour. This was the first time that concert prices jumped – from about $50 to around $125. It was the only time I can ever remember thinking the cost of a ticket might price me out of the show. Decided to go at the last minute, but didn’t have the greatest attitude – they were really going to have to entertain me to get my grudging approval. They did. Henley played his solo stuff, Glenn Frey did his Beverly Hills Cop and Miami Vice songs; Timothy Schmidt was in fine voice; and you heard everything you wanted to. Worth it in the end.
Honorable mention: History of the Eagles Tour Sept 11 2013, first event of the reopened Saddledome; and the Hotel California Tour, CNE Stadium Toronto, late 1970s.
18. The Beach Boys, Lethbridge, circa 1980. Steve Simmons set this up. A group of tennis players from the Glenmore Racquet Club chartered a bus to go down to Lethbridge and see the Beach Boys play in the local arena; we had floor seats and at the back, they had opened up an area so you could dance. In those days, Brian Wilson had stopped touring, so it was Mike Love on vocals and one non-stop hit after the other. We danced all night.
19. Cyndi Lauper, club in Washington, with USA Today’s Rod Beaton, just after Girls Just Want To Have Fun broke big. We were offered small fortunes for our tickets, but wouldn’t bite. Really fun. In the intermission, had my fortune read by a woman psychic, with a deck of tarot cards.
20. Ringo Starr All-Star Band, Saddledome. Featuring Clarence Clemons, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Dr. John, Billy Preston, Nils Lofgren. Floor seats. With Mary. Glen Miller, a former Herald colleague, and Ben Kuzma’s sister Luba were coincidentally in the seats beside us. Ringo, all night, asked “what’s my name?’ But what a supporting cast, everybody getting a chance to play their hits.
21. Tom Petty, Jun 15, 2010, Pengrowth Saddledome, with Adam and Paula. Paula had become a big fan of “American Girl” and so the first time we saw him, he didn’t play it, a disappointment to her. Luckily, the next time, he did. Also, Petty with Steve Winwood opening, Scotiabank Saddledome, Aug 19 2014, with Lisa, my only time ever seeing Winwood. Hearing all those old Spencer Davis songs was great.
22. Debbie Harry, San Diego Opera House, with Mary’s Danish opening. It was the 80s revival weekend and Debbie Harry sang her great solo single, “I Want That Man”, in the middle of the show, which includes the line, “I want the man in the very last row.” It took a second to register, but I thought, hey, wait, I’m the man sitting in the very last row. We never did hook up. Still haven’t actually.
Debbie, call me. CALL ME!
23. Jim Cuddy/Greg Keelor, Kinmount Fairgrounds, August 2012. After the Minden flood, fellow Kawarthas cottager Keelor did a charity concert to raise money for the recovery. We went en masse – I bought 11 tickets, everybody up on the long weekend attended – and it was very much a Blue Rodeo set. I ran into Jim later that summer, outside of the Royal Alex theatre, when the Rascals musical was playing and told him much I enjoyed it. His wife was trying to hurry him away, identifying me as just another crazy fan, trying to take up too much of her husband’s time. I couldn’t blame her really. Lorne and I were 10 rows back for most of the show.
24. Elvis Costello, CNE Coliseum, Talk Talk opening. Monica living downtown, Mary and I decided to skip the opening act, got to the Gardens, where the show was originally scheduled to be played, and found that the venue had been shifted. We made it to the CNE just in time for the Talk Talk finale. Elvis Costello was controversially playing really short shows in those days, but this one was amazing. Three encores, 12 songs in all, a high energy show, undermined only by the muddy acoustics of the building.
25. Bob Dylan, with Tracy Chapman opening. The first time I ever saw Dylan and probably the most coherent show. You could actually make out some of the lyrics of “Tangled Up In Blue.”
26. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, with Dallas Green, Scotiabank Saddledome, rescheduled from Mar, 19, 2013, with Doug. Traveled to Detroit for hockey for more than three decades and it was always the same – either Seger was coming to Cobo Hall or he’d just finished a long stand there. When the original show was cancelled, I feared: this is never going to happen, it isn’t meant to be. But it was rescheduled, Doug and I were both available, and it measured up to expectations. His cover of California Stars eventually appeared on an album, about a year later.
27. U2, Calgary, with Doug, standing room on the floor, PJ Harvey opening, all I could think was, that Bono can really put on a show.
28. Paul Simon, Scotiabank Saddledome, 1991, Mary pregnant with Adam. Two things stand out. The tour was called Born At The Right Time, which Adam was, and Paul Simon sang “The Obvious Child,” which Adam became. Also: Paul Simon had been white-hatted prior to the show by our mayor Al Duerr, and planned to sing “You Can Call Me Al” in his honour, wearing the cowboy hat. He only remembered after he’d played it once so he turned around and played it again.
29. Boz Scaggs, The Memphis Tour, Jubilee Auditorium, Oct 7, 2014. Really liked Memphis, though most people seemed to be there just to hear the early hits. I had the set list in hand and knew he’d get to them eventually, but there was a restlessness in the crowd early as he sang these great new songs; I felt I was the only one digging them.
30. Roxy Music, Northlands Coliseum, 1981, Canada Cup. Five of us went – I know three were me, Bob McKenzie and Scott Haskins, who was covering the Flames then. They were playing lots off Avalan, my favorite album of theirs, and all of us were enjoying it, except Scott, who didn’t know a thing about Roxy Music or Bryan Ferry and after about 10 songs, seemed puzzled. ‘You enjoying this?’ he said to the group. The response was four glares. He eventually came around. Or he said so.
31. The Wallflowers. Saddledome. Opening for Mellancamp, arena was half-filled, you could tell not many people knew too much about Jakob Dylan, other than he was maybe Bob’s son. They did all the key tracks, but their enthusiasm was clearly waning as the set progressed and the only guy really clapping loud was in a suite, too high above the stage to make a dent in the ennui permeating the building. Too bad.
32. REM, Saddledome, with Doug, Charlie Mars opening. Rod Beaton originally turned me on to REM in the early, early days and I followed them for the full arc of their career. This was near the end, and Michael Stipe put on a great show. Predictable maybe, but “Man On The Moon” was a highlight.
33. Van Morrison, club in New York, early 2000s. On the day of an interview with Commissioner Gary Bettman at his Manhattan offices, went to the Village in the hopes of seeing The Thrills, my favourite 21st century band. Sadly, their show was cancelled. But Van was playing the next day at 5 pm, to test out some material as he was about to go tour. There was a sign posted saying the Morrison show was sold out (well, why wouldn’t it be? Seeing Van in a club? Impossible). So I said to the guy in the ticket office: “Geez, not my day, no Thrills, now no Van Morrison either.” He looks me over: “Do you want to see Van? Do you have $100 in cash?” I did – and somehow, he found me a ticket. Next afternoon, we’re lined up outside the club late afternoon and puzzled passersby were all wondering what was going on. Unbelievably, most couldn’t identify Van Morrison until I said “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Then nods of understanding.
34. Dave Alvin, Ironwood club in Calgary, Sunday afternoon, same day Daymond Langkow got hit in the throat in a game in Minnesota. Sat about 10 feet from the stage. Strach’s old buddy, the bartender from Buzzards, was working the bar that day. He kept wanting to comp me my beers; unfortunately, I wasn’t drinking.
35. The Blasters, club in Toronto, Dave and Phil Alvin. Loewen/Motherwells accompany. Just as they were about to start, I turned to Gary and said: “I hope they do ‘Marie Marie.'” Five seconds later, it was the opening number. Great – but the rest of the show was anticlimactic.
36. Rosanne Cash, Blues Festival, McMahon Stadium. The Blind Boys of Alabama opened the show and John Prine closed it, but Rosanne’s set was the highlight. Doug and I left our seats to watch from the edge of the stage.
Rosanne told a great story – of how she went to the Grammy’s the first time she was nominated, hoping to win for Seven Year Ache. When she didn’t, she went back to her hotel room and wrote I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me – with which she promptly won a Grammy the next year.
37. Electric Light Orchestra, CNE Stadium, Toronto, summer of 1977. Remember Jeff Lynne, thanking fans for all their support, before they hit big, by prefacing his remarks, “No bullshit …” Part of my goal to see every member of the Traveling Wilburys at least once.
38. Los Lobos, 1987, Jack Singer with Doug and Mary, our first anniversary, played most of the How Will The Wolf Survive album; and debuted “La Bamba” – which they’d recorded for the Richie Valens movie – as the encore.
39. Martha and The Muffins, the Peppermint Lounge, New York, early 1980s. Don’t think they went on stage until after midnight; I think Mary was asleep on her feet by the time they came and played. After “Echo Beach,” I think we drifted back to the hotel
40. Murray McLauchlin, University of Western Ontario, wrote my first concert review off the show. Thumbs up to Murray. Still one of my favourite Canadian songwriters today.
41. Neil Diamond, Maple Leaf Gardens, spent all night in line waiting to buy tickets at Salzman’s ticket agency and then was told I could only buy two. So I go to one outlet and my new best friend – a stranger, who’d I spent the last seven hours talking to — went to the other. I got my tickets and then went over to see what he’d gotten. The woman selling him the tickets didn’t realize I’d bought a pair at the window next door and sold me two more. Meant Mary, Monica and Frank could all go.
42. Rod Stewart, Maple Leafs Gardens, 1977, Heart opening act, just as Dreamboat Annie broke.
43. World Party, Fingerprints Record Store, Long Beach – about 100 people in attendance, seven songs, promoting their new boxed set. Earlier in the day, we saw Al Jardine perform solo at the same venue.
44. Crosby, Stills & Nash. Jack Singer Hall. With Mary. After summer vacation, maybe the best acoustics ever. Graham Nash told a funny story about writing “Just A Song Before I Go,” on a dare, just before leaving Hawaii one year.
45. Al Stewart, Maple Leaf Gardens concert bowl, 1977, in support of Year Of The Cat.
“On a morning from a Bogart movie, in a country where they turn back time/ You go strolling through the grounds like Peter Lorre, contemplating a crime. She comes out of the sun in a silk dressing running/like a watercolor in the rain. Don’t bother asking for explanation, she’ll just tell you that she came.”
Can still remember all the lyrics to all the songs on that album.
46. John Mellencamp, Casino Rama, Summer of 2014, with Lisa and Bob & Cyndi McKenzie. The fifth time I’d seen him and probably the shortest set ever, but the one that covered the most hits.
Honorable mention: Back-to-back shows at the Jubilee, the first with Paula, Cowboy Junkies opening, and he played a song, “The Real Life,” that was an unexpected pleasure.
47. Chicago, CNE Stadium. At the height of their popularity, mid-1970s, one hit after another. Cemented my burgeoning love for live music.
48. CSNY, Long Island, early 2000s, right after 9/11 song by Neil Young released. One of the guys in Stan Fischler’s entourage also worked security at the building and managed to get me from the upper bowl into seats near the stage. Was struck mostly by how confused the world was – it was a set that included everything from Graham Nash singing “Military Madness” to Neil Young singing “Let’s Go,” his tribute to the passengers who brought down Flight 93.
49. Ron Sexsmith, Theatre Junction Grand, Calgary, March 19, 2013, with Doug and Audrey.
50. Sheryl Crow, Salt Lake City Olympics, Feb. 2002, with Damien Cox. Outdoor show.
Honorable mentions: Barenaked Ladies and Tragically Hip at COC post-Olympic party:
51. David Bowie, Maple Leaf Gardens, in support of Golden Years, my favourite of his albums.
52. Steve Forbert, opening for Edie Brickell, Silver Dollar Bowl, with Doug, Kerrie and Mary.
53. Willie Nelson, Valentine’s Day, Hawaii Bandshell, On the Road Again tour.
54. Guess Who/Stampeders, Maple Leaf Gardens, fundraiser for the National Ballet of Canada, around 1971, first concert of my life that didn’t involve puppeteers.
55. Levon Helm, with Phoebe Snow opening, first time ever at the Beacon, just before both of them passed away.
56. Duran Duran, opening for Blondie, CNE Stadium, touring in support of Rio, right after I graduated from journalism school. Took Brian Burton’s girlfriend, Karla, to that. One of those rare times when the supporting act upstaged the main attraction – and Debbie Harry knew it. After Blondie played “In The Sun” to open, Debbie thanked Duran Duran for opening the show and then warned them not to steal it ever again.
57. The Police, Montreal Forum, Canada Cup, Bernard Brissette got me 4 tickets at the last minute, two of which were second row floor, two much further back. All I can remember is Cammy Clark, then writing for the Tampa paper, going on and on about Sting, playing the last 2 songs shirtless. How sexist!
58. Prince, Welcome 2 America HP Pavilion, May 21 2011, San Jose, Sheila E stole the show with the only memorable drum solo I ever enjoyed.
59. Segarini, The Refinery In Calgary, memorable for playing his one hit – a great song, “When The Lights Are Out” – and then running out on James and I because he’d found a new friend on the wait staff.
60. Teddy Pendergast, Miami club, with Joe Ferrara, Christmas vacation around 1975. He was still fronting for Harold Melvin & The BlueNotes back then. The next day, Joe had a memorable encounter with a bathrobe-wearing Teddy in the elevator after Teddy was leaving the pool. Joe said: “Great show.” Teddy said: “Thanks man.”
Or something like that.
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