Retrospective Part 1 : The Best Concerts


Today was my older sister’s birthday. She died last year, not long after turning seventy-six. In 2015, my older brother died, just short of his 72nd birthday. Neither of them reached the average life expectancies for women, age 79.1 or men, age 73.2, for people born in the U.S., as noted in the Harvard Medical School publication dated October 22nd, 2022. In a few months, I’ll be seventy-two. In my immediate family, the only person who exceeded the expected lifespan for people in this country was my mother. She was quite miraculous, surviving two cancers, wildly uncontrolled diabetes, ulcerative colitis and progressively deteriorating osteoporosis. A medical monstrosity with an incredible life force. So far, I’ve been far luckier with virtually no illnesses or conditions to rival my mom’s woes. But I know that life can change quickly for anyone, regardless of past health. My athletic husband, who exercised until the end of his life, and didn’t smoke or drink, has been outlived by so many people we know who envied him his fitness. So while I’m still here, I think about how that could rapidly change. So hoe about my life? I’ve been thinking back to different parts of it, especially those which I loved the most. For years, I’ve compulsively kept a record of my favorites, the books, the movies, the trips and the concerts. Why this need to document all this stuff? I have no idea. Is there a history gene? I don’t think so. But Michael also kept all kinds of lists, which included autobiographical information, concerts he’d attended, a movie catalogue of films he used in his history classes and on and on. Maybe there’s something in the water supply to our house. In any case, I’ve kept multiple running lists for a long while. Periodically I check them out, to see if I still feel the same about what’s on them. Do I want to add or subtract anything? For the most part, I they haven’t changed much, despite the increasing numbers of everything I’ve been tracking. The years go by with more seen, read or heard and yet the lists are mostly static. I guess magic happens less frequently for me these days. But about those concerts…

Beatles concert – Chicago Amphitheater – August, 1966 – with Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes

Despite growing up with economic challenges I was fortunate to see a few special shows during my teens. The ones that were most memorable for me were The Beatles and The Temptations concerts. When I was in college, I was lucky to be living in a community which supported multiple music venues. As a student I could take advantage of inexpensive tickets. I saw every kind of concert I could, from rock shows to blues jams to folk hootenannies to orchestras performing classical pieces. During Michael’s twenty-seven year period of co-owning a campus music store, we were in the enviable position of receiving tickets and backstage passes from the record companies which they passed out as bonuses for those businesses which sold large volumes of their products. In addition, we lived in a place conveniently within close range of multiple locations which were frequently booked by world-renowned performers. To say I lived an enriched cultural life is probably an understatement.

Some of the performers I saw, some more than once. Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Beck, Leo Kottke, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Neil Young, Robert Palmer, Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana.

I hope that in the shorter time span stretching out ahead of me I’ll still attend incredible concerts which might make my all-time best list. And even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll always be happy and grateful when I’m sitting in an audience listening to live music. The special feeling of being personally engaged with an artist is magical. I worry about the continually escalating ticket prices which keep so many people away from having these unique experiences. The best parts of life should be available to everyone, not just the wealthiest among us. But who’s listening to my opinions? That’s a topic for another day. For now, for my kids and theirs, and anyone else who’s curious about my little slice of life, here are the most powerful concerts of my life. The ones that thrilled, inspired and evoked powerful feelings. I’m so privileged to have had so many magical moments in music world.

Renee’s best concerts in no particular order:

Robert Palmer – Quiet Knight – Chicago

Grateful Dead – Fox Theater, St Louis – October, 1972

Paul McCartney – Ft. Wayne County Coliseum, Indiana – June, 2019

Rolling Stones – Soldier Field – September, 2005

Keith Jarrett – Auditorium Theater – October, 1978

Mavis Staples – The Virginia Theater – April, 2016

Sonny Landreth – Krannert – September, 2013

Derek Trucks Band – Krannert – September, 2009

Farm Aid – Memorial Stadium – September, 1985

Bruce Springsteen – Assembly Hall – November, 1978

Joshua Redman – Krannert – September 11, 2001

Allman Brothers – Poplar Creek – August, 1980

Stevie Wonder – Rosemont Horizon – July, 1986

Natalie Merchant – Auditorium – December, 1995

Pete Yorn – Pageant – St. Louis – May, 2019

Pete Yorn

That’s a wrap for the concert thoughts. Next up : books.

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