the fact that i never saw b.b. king is the cause of some regret, and it does have me thinking about the people i am glad to have seen, and also the very best shows i've been present for. i worked as a rock critic for many years for many publications, so i saw a lot, though for other reasons too. alright, i am very grateful that i saw tammy wynette, george jones, waylon jennings, bill monroe, earl scruggs, ralph stanley, charlie louvin, muddy waters, john prine, loretta lynn, buddy guy and junior wells, james cotton.
some of the shows i remember as the very best: as a teenager i went with my dad several times to see the original seldom scene at the red fox inn in bethesda. as i said in how to escape, those shows had brilliant, loose virtuosity, incredible momentum, and ravishing beauty. can't do a whole lot better than that.
i saw the original pretenders and the second version several times: what a great rock band, with a great singer and songwriter at its heart. the other best arena-size shows i saw might have been the stones circa '78 and prince at the meadowlands in the early 2000s with a killer funk band featuring maceo parker. i have some reservations about prince; he can be gimmicky and the repertoire is a mixed bag. but man he just killed. oh also grateful dead/allman brothers at rfk stadium: '74? i did see the dead a number of times; it all really depended on garcia's chemical composition at that moment. anyway, i always thought they were kind of a mediocre country act, but people had religious experiences all around me.
one event that i always remember when i'm remembering is vince gill, alone with a guitar in a little bar in nashville. i think it was a benefit for a local arts organization or something. what an utter master of the guitar, and just a heartrendingly beautiful singer. he was loose, but every single note was exactly right. (also i recommend his 43-cut superset [not a greatest hits] these days.) i saw kim wilson in a similar context. i play blues harp but man that boy about killed me: he did sonny boy, little walter, big walter and everyone and everything else, and there have been few better white blues singers. i saw a very young patty loveless at the warren county, va, fair, before she even hit, though she was already doing 'timber, i'm falling in love', e.g. and she destroyed me on multiple levels. dailey and vincent and iiird tyme out have slayed my ass at bluegrass festivals over the last decade or so.
on several occasions in the 70's i saw bonnie raitt in dc, touring with buddy and junior. man those were fine shows by a fine woman. i went to a soul blues festival in birmingham, al, in maybe '91. i went by myself as my marriage fell apart and felt at once worse and so much better after taking in bobby bland, millie jackson, and clarence carter in an all-black audience. speaking of which, some of the go-go shows in dc in the '70s, with acts like trouble funk and chuck brown, were really unique experiences. i'm sure more will occur!
probably the show i saw that freaked me out the most or changed my sense of music the most was minor threat, ontario theater in dc in '81. not the best show, at all, but the most extreme.