Welcome to another installment of Ask A Music Critic! And thanks to everyone who has sent me questions. Please keep them coming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was listening to WXPN’s Woodstock broadcast recently and it made me think of all the classic concerts that have taken place. If you could have attended any concert ever, which would you choose? It has to be a specific show, not just “Ramones at CBGB.” — Jeff from Philadelphia
I’ve thought a lot about this question, even if the cynic in me suspects that the most iconic concerts of the past probably aren’t as great as we remember them. Woodstock is the perfect example of this — it’s the most famous and romanticized rock festival ever, though in reality it was a top-to-bottom sh*t show choked with mud, annoying hippies, stultifying boogie bands, and overflowing toilets. It’s probably more fun to think about these shows than it was to actually attend them.
Nevertheless, there are scores of concerts that I’ll only ever attend via concert documentaries and live albums that I sort of do wish I could have seen in real life. In fact, I’ve come up with 16 shows that would go on my wishlist. The only restriction I put on myself is that it had to take place before I attended my first real concert on August 26, 1994. (The Rolling Stones at Camp Randall Stadium!)
Many of these gigs took place before I was even born. All of them took place before I was old enough to see rock shows. This will explain the preponderance of classic rock on this list. (I also just really like classic rock.) Here is my list in chronological order.
1. Bob Dylan and the Hawks, Manchester Free Trade Hall, May 17, 1966
For a second I considered putting the “Dylan goes electric” show at the Newport Folk Festival from one year earlier. But by most accounts, that gig wasn’t very good. I know this show, the so-called “Judas!” gig,” is incredible from the classic live record. Also, I would want to punch the “Judas!” guy in the nose.
2. Jimi Hendrix, Monterey Pop Festival, June 18, 1967
Imagine having no idea who Jimi Hendrix was. Then imagine taking acid. Then imagine hearing Jimi Hendrix play guitar for the first time. Then imagine seeing Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire. Then imagine your brain oozing out of your ears. I imagine this would not suck.