My Top Five Concerts of All Time - by Pete Vogel

To continue with JCE’s inspiration to document powerful musical experiences, I’ve decided to write about my top five live concerts in the hopes of inspiring others to write about theirs.  It’s always great to hear input from other writers about the music that moves them.

This was a hard list to come up with: I’ve been to hundreds of concerts and have also played in – arguably – hundreds more.  I’ve seen so many unbelievable shows that it’s hard to classify which of the five were the most unbelievable. But after giving it some serious thought, I came up with this list because for one reason or another they resonated a little differently than others have.  

5. Quadrophenia Tour – Schottenstein Center (2/18/2013)

This wasn’t the first Quadro tour I had ever seen, but this was the most memorable.  The Who were going out as a duet this time (Daltrey, Townshend) but with a host of special guests: Zak Starkey behind the kit; brother Simon on guitar; Pino on bass.  The video/lights were extraordinary. My favorite part was when Roger sang to the video screen during “Bell Boy” where they had a montage of Keith Moon’s performances over the years.  Truly spellbinding. A real tear-jerker for any Who fan.

This is my favorite album of The Who and I think their penultimate masterpiece.  Better than Tommy. Better than “Who’s Next.” It’s the best thing the Who ever produced, IMO.

4. The Rolling Stones – Ohio Stadium (5/30/2015)

I fucking hate the Rolling fucking Stones.  Hate them. With a passion. Worst band ever.  

Horrible, ugly singer.  Lazy drummer. Guitarist has been clinically dead since 1974….hell…maybe even 1794…isn’t he like 350 years old?  The Stones suck. By law I have to say that since I’m a Who fan. You can’t like the Who and simultaneously like the fucking Stones: I’m sorry.  You can’t like Michigan AND Ohio State. Same thing. Fuck the Stones.

That said: The Stones blew me out of the water.  Out. Of. The. Water. Great performance. Great crowd.  Great musicianship. Great singing. Lots of special guests.  They even sang “Hang On Sloopy!” I finally GOT the Stones, and they immediately hopped up to my top five concerts of all time.  So you can say they shut my ass up for two and a half hours. Made me eat my words. Humble pie. Lots of it.

My favorite part of the night?  Mick Jagger on “Midnight Rambler.”  I will remember that until the day I die.  His harp playing. His singing. His dancing.  Wow. Just wow.

Did I mention I fucking hate the fucking Rolling fucking Stones?    

3.  Sir Paul McCartney -  Nationwide Arena (10/13/2015)

Royalty.  Sir Paul. Most famous person on the planet.  And deserving of everything he’s gotten. What an amazing show.  Joy. Laughter. Tears. Ballads. Rockers. Something for everyone.  Iconic. Jaw-dropping. After watching Sir Paul work his magic, everything else feels kinda minor league to me.  He actually kinda started the fire, when you truly think about it. It was nice paying homage to the source. A true genius.

2.  Yes Union Tour – Nutter Center (5/4/1991)  

I love Yes.  In many ways they are very, very high on my list of all-time favorite bands.  Very high. Nobody sounds like them. Nobody plays like them. Nobody works the highest chakra than Yes.  They are more than music: They are a movement. Yes music is a philosophy, a worldview, a consciousness. Yes music will be played in 200 years.  Yes music is the most heavenly thing I’ve ever experienced on this earth. In heaven they will be playing Yes music.

When the band decided to join forces with its primary contributors, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the show.  My personal favorite lineup was Close to the Edge (Howe, Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Squire), but I also dug the later incarnation (Rabin, White, Kaye).  Yes Union melded the two forms in-the-rotating-round concert that was otherworldly. Truly spellbinding. Rock, classical, innovative, spiritual.

My favorite part of the night actually came when they played a song I was unfamiliar with: “Awaken” (off the Going for the One LP).  They had an interlude featuring harp, bells and Wakeman on keys. Spellbinding. Then they ramped it up into the mother of all crescendos: I could almost feel myself levitating.  I rarely have out-of-body experiences at concerts (well…sober, at least) but tonight was the night that I became a different person. Wow. My soul expanded listening to them perform that night.

1. Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra (8/16/2018)

The reason why I have to give a nod to ELO over Yes, Sir Paul and The Who was because I discovered the band on my own when I was in the sixth or seventh grade.  My older brother Jim was the brain-trust to our musical journeys during childhood, but this was my first step into actual autonomy. As a teenager reared in the safe suburban sprawl of upper-middle-class Catholic school conformity, Jeff Lynne represented my first experience into widening my soul.  With songs such as “Strange Magic,” “Telephone Line” and “One Summer Dream” my inner life was slowly taking form due to his genius.

I had seen an incarnation of ELO back in the 90s, but its primary writer and voice wasn’t a part of the project.  Same music, different soul. So it was a homecoming to witness Mr. Lynne singing the songs that moved mountains. He played everything I hoped for and more.  I was surprised how emotional I got during the concert, but I guess when something resonates within you as a teenager those memories are wrapped in gold.

Honorable mentions?  I got ten. Monte Montgomery at Anton’s in Austin, TX (look him up).  Rush at Cooper Stadium. Yanni at Polaris (yep…you read that correctly…I love Yanni!),  Collective Soul at Newport Music Hall. Marillion at Newport Music Hall. Tears for Fears at Newport Music Hall.  The Who Farewell tour at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The Swell Season at Palace Theater. The Police at Richfield Coliseum.  And lastly: Tony Bennett at The Ohio Theater.

I hope you enjoyed the series.  I’m looking forward to hearing others’ top five concerts of all time!  Thanks for reading! - Pete Vogel