Live-music dos and don'ts

Are you fed up with lackluster concerts? Share your live-music picks and pans.

Published June 28, 2007 10:50AM (EDT)

I generally find going to concerts to be a boring and uncomfortable experience. Yet like a lab rat continually jolted by some booby-rigged cheese, I keep coming back for more. So naturally I spent a couple of hours recently at a concert in Central Park. The show -- a triple bill featuring melodic indie-rockers Sloan, the Cuban rhythms of Apostle of Hustle and country outfit the Duhks -- did nothing to abate my live-music malaise. Too frequently, live music occurs under conditions that are ripe for a blah time -- bad sound, rote performances, uncomfortable venues, egregious throwing of devil horns. I'm willing to bet that you too are frequently left nonplussed by your concertgoing experiences. Of all the shows you've been to, how many can you say were truly memorable?

But unlike my fictional rat, we can try to learn from our mistakes. That's why I'm asking for a little help in putting together a list of live-music picks and pans. Despite the concert industry's record-breaking recent business, the touring schedule is still full of overpriced hazards. When both the critics and the band's drummer agree that the Police's reunion tour is no great shakes, it's clear that there are some serious missteps out there. Below is my list of acts I try not to miss whenever they roll through town (all of which either are on tour or have future dates scheduled), followed by five others you should save your money on.


1. High on Fire -- Music as pure malevolent energy.

2. Sonny Rollins -- Even at 77, this jazz legend is still capable of seemingly endless melodic invention.

3. Dinosaur Jr. -- Emo confessionals meet Neil Young guitar sturm und drang.

4. Prince -- The closest thing we have to a young James Brown, with the added bonus of unbelievable guitar chops.

5. The Brian Jonestown Massacre -- The band might not get through one song or they might play 20 shoulda-been psychedelic classics. Either way, hella entertaining.


1. The New York Dolls -- Two-fifths of a once-great band peddling polished, pedestrian versions of their classics.

2. Lou Reed -- The worst case of performer condescension I've witnessed. When I saw him play, he performed most of the concert with his back to the audience.

3. The Black Crowes -- A band trading in bongwater blues 30 years after it went out of style. Jams that go nowhere.

4. The Killers -- Musical bombast and rock-god pretension are fine, but you need more than four great songs to back it up.

5. Ben Harper -- Like the Black Crowes, but aggressively earnest.

Now, I'm hoping you'd like to share a few of your concert stories, too. But in the meantime, could someone tell me whether I should feel OK about having just ponied up to see Amy Winehouse?

-- David Marchese

By Salon Staff

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