My concert-going days may well be over, because I don’t much care for huge crowds and I’m not too keen on the exorbitant ticket prices that apparently are now standard.
But I always have and still do appreciate a good, live musical performance, and I had the pleasure of witnessing just that last Saturday afternoon when the Texas County Troubadours laid down a few sets at the Piney River Brewing Company’s iconic BARn. And just enjoying the trio of Troubadours (bass and mandolin player Rock Gremillion, of Yukon, acoustic guitar and harmonica player Kurt Heine, of Columbia, and St. Louis’ own Shamus McPherson on electric guitar) would have been enough as they navigated through a repertoire that included everything from The Band to The Beatles, but the also show featured a wonderful twist when Summersville resident John Dalton Worth came out of the audience and joined the much-younger boys for some rousing renditions of Tom Petty classics and other tunes.
It was as if the foursome had played together before, and not literally just met.
But as I sat getting lost in the series of worthy musical moments, and again after the show was over and the instruments were all in their cases, my mind wandered into the distant past (when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and I was a young buck with seemingly limitless energy) and I reflected on some of the more memorable live music occasions I’ve seen. As many people can attest to who have witnessed first hand their favorite musical artists in action, seeing a good concert creates a lasting impression.
A couple of my favorites both took place in the old Paramount Theatre in Seattle, a cozy little place at the corner of 9th and Pine with a few more than 2,800 seats and fantastic acoustics. On separate occasions, I saw the Eagles and U2 play there before either of them reached stadium popularity.
It was August 1975 when I saw the Eagles. They still had all five original members (Don Henly, Glenn Fry, Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon and Don Felder) and had recently released their “On the Border” album.
The show concluded with an unreal rendition of “Best of My Love,” with all five guys standing shoulder to shoulder at the front of the stage playing acoustic guitars as Henly made everyone in the place melt with his spot-on, raspy vocals (yep, even drummer Henly and bass-player Meisner joined the guitar-fest). I can still feel the ultra-pleasant atmosphere.
It was May 1983 when U2 played the Paramount. They had just released their “War” album and were still on the road to the big-time.
I don’t remember the song that was playing, but at one point about two-thirds of the way through the show, Bono held a finger to his lips and did the “sssshhhh” thing to the crowd. Other than The Edge’s guitar softly keeping some sound going, the place went silent.
Bono then stepped to the front of the stage, turned his back to the crowd and calmly fell back onto many awaiting hands. As if the scene was choreographed, he sang while lying facing the ceiling as hundreds of people carefully passed him around the bottom level of the three-story venue.
Again as if planned, the people moved him back to the stage and pushed him upright just as the song ended. Needless to say, a huge ovation erupted. With a big smile on his face, Bono was like, “Wow, folks, that was awesome. Thanks.”
I can still feel the surreal atmosphere.
But perhaps my best concert memory is one I can safely say is shared by about 11,000 people who happened to be in Pullman, Wash. in October 1979.
I was a junior at Washington State University and Mount St. Helens hadn’t yet dumped six inches of volcanic ash on the Palouse as happened the following May. But the mountain had shown it was ready for action by producing a few warm-up eruptions, so to speak.
Anyway, a Jimmy Buffett concert took place in Wazzu’s Beasley Coliseum. Already being a Buffett fan, I would have gone to the show even if the circumstances had been different.
But his current album was – wait for it – “Volcano,” and it and the single by the same name were not surprisingly slightly popular everywhere in the proximity of the Cascade Mountains’ newly famous overgrown fireworks cone. Getting a ticket was a no-brainer and they sold out in a hurry.
I’ll never forget the air of anticipation that existed throughout the show as everyone enjoyed all of Buffett’s other good tunes but collectively waited for the inevitable. Then it happened.
As soon as the steel drum began sending its Caribbean beat around the big room, the crowd went nuts. And every time JB came to the song’s famous refrain, he was joined by 11,000 volcano survivors in singing “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the volcano blows.”
Absolutely unreal. And what are the odds?
To make things even better, Buffett had a broken leg and did the whole show propped against a tall stool wearing a full leg cast. Again, what are the odds?
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.