I admit to being pretty lame with my musical tastes. If it’s not on the radio or iTunes top singles list, I’ve probably never heard it. The only time I discover off-the-beaten-path tunes is when I hear something I like and Shazam a movie or TV show. I also really haven’t been to that many shows, making many of them my favorites just because. My very first was *NSYNC’s PopOdyssey tour at Giants Stadium when I was in 7th grade. It would’ve made my list, except I barely remember it. We had nosebleeds and apparently didn’t take a single photo. I even lost my T-shirt. I just know that I screamed until my vocal cords gave out. I made up for those hazy memories a couple months ago when I went to see Justin Timberlake. Which brings us to my number 1…*
1. Justin Timberlake | The 20/20 Experience World Tour Madison Square Garden, NYC | March 21, 2014
I. Lost. My. Mind. End of story. Most I’ve ever spent on a show ($175) and I would only ever spend that much on this man. Worth every penny. He was getting over being sick and still flawlessly powered through a 32-song setlist. He played the majority of 20/20 but also revisited hits from his prior two albums. “Cry Me A River” threw the stadium into complete pandemonium. He launched into Sinatra's "New York, New York" and that was it, I was done. And that was before the first set even ended. It was the best night ever spent with three of my best girls and our beloved JT. Mmph.
2. GLEE | The Glee Live Tour 2011 IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ | June 17, 2011
A couple years ago, I was a pretty hardcore Gleek. (Sue me.) The cast was talented, the show was fun, and my sis and I were kind of intense about it. So when the cast went on a stadium tour, we knew we had to go. We paid for the cheapest seats possible, but it was still a blast. We sang along to every song, squealed over the cute boys that we knew and loved from TV, and even made our own T-shirts. Because they turned the concert into a movie, they were filming at our particular arena and we were treated to some repeat performance and a surprise appearance from Gwyneth Paltrow (a guest star on the show). Not too shabby. (It's a little bittersweet now. ❤ Cory Monteith)
3. Adam Lambert & Train | 95.5 WPLJ Summer Blast-Off 2012 Jenkinson’s Pavilion, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ | May 25, 2012
I was mostly in it for Adam. Every year, this Jersey shore radio station hosts a summer kick-off concert. The year I was living in Jersey again, it just so happened to be at my favorite club on my favorite boardwalk at the shore point where I spent many happy childhood memories. It also started at 6:30 a.m. That alone made it fun. I had already seen Adam at Bethlehem’s Musikfest a couple years prior and I was more than willing to see him again. It was the crack of dawn, but he still rocked our faces off. I love a good stadium tour, but smaller venues can be just as great. I was indifferent to Train, but pleasantly surprised. And the close quarters made for some very nice photo opps. My friends and I hit up a diner afterward and I was back home by 11 a.m.
4. Train with Gavin DeGraw & The Script | Mermaids of Alcatraz Tour PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ | July 28, 2013
My mother and sister and I decided we wanted to see a show, so we looked up who was going to be where, we liked these three well enough, so we bought tickets and went. Simple as that. All three put on great performances and it was just one of those perfectly lovely summer evenings.
5. Daughtry | Break the Spell Tour Musikfest, Bethlehem, PA | August 11, 2012
I saw Chris with my family. Back when we were Idol fans, he was another one of our favorites. He’s great live, but what really made the night stand out is that around halfway through, it started raining. Not just drizzling, but full on pouring. Everyone was forced to put away their phones and cameras and really get into the music. It was a hot summer night, it felt amazing, and the crowd sang along in earnest once they were no longer distracted by technology.
*All photos from the above concerts taken by yours truly!
I’m seeing Hunter Hayes tomorrow night at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ (at 3 a.m.) for his 24 Hour Road Race To End Child Hunger and hitting up the Monumentour with Fall Out Boy and Paramore next month. Both will most likely be pretty awesome.
This was a hard one for me and I’m still not sure about all of my selections for “Favorite Concerts.” I’ve been to hundreds, especially in my late teens and college years. I still get out to a dozen or so a year, ranging from big acts in stadiums to punk shows at VFW halls. Here is my (kind of?) definitive list of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.
1. The Hellcat Records Tour
11/13/03, at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. This show was nothing short of incredible. I’ve been a punk rock fan for as long as I can remember, Rancid being one of my favorite acts. So the line-up featuring old school punk legend, Roger Miret; rockabilly band, Tiger Army; ska act, The Slackers; and, of course, Rancid was nothing short of amazing. Over a decade later, I can still remember the electricity in the air as the houselights went down and the first chords of “Radio” sounded out. The concert was so good, my friends and I drove overnight to Pittsburgh immediately afterwards to catch the next show on the tour.
11/24/09, at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. I have had many a good time at Phish concerts, but this show was exceptional. It was a beautiful fall evening and lead guitarist, Trey Anastasio, was keyed in. It’s hard to describe to people who don’t listen to jam bands (Grateful Dead, Disco Biscuits, etc.) but some nights the band just clicks and produces extraordinary music. This was one of those nights. The show was capped off with a great encore cover of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
3. Farm Aid 2012
9/22/12, at Hershey Park Stadium in Hershey, PA. I have to admit a certain amount of unprofessionalism on this one. I was technically working the show, covering the annual benefit concert for our sister paper, The Home News. It is pretty hard to be an unbiased, passive observer when you’re standing a few feet from absolute music legends like Neil Young and Willie Nelson at the pre-show press conference. It was exciting and a damn good show. Organized by Willie Nelson in 1985 to advocate for family farmers, Farm Aid is an inspiring and epic happening (and hosts the best locally-sourced food vendors I’ve ever seen anywhere). Farm Aid 2012 is truly a concert I’ll never forget, especially Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds’ blazing set.
4. The Hold Steady
7/24/09, at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. The Hold Steady, an indie rock act from Brooklyn often described as a cross between Springsteen and The Replacements, know how to put on a rowdy, rollicking show. Opening band Titus Andronicus set the mood for the craziest, most high energy concert I’ve ever seen. The bands tore through their sets, whipping the crowd into a moshing, sweaty frenzy. The Hold Steady played all of my favorite songs from their discography, like “Constructive Summer” and “Stay Positive,” making for a fun, memorable night.
5. The World/Inferno Friendship Society
10/31/09, at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The World/Inferno Friendship Society is very hard to explain to the uninitiated. They are a Brooklyn-based group of punk rockers/performance artists who form a loose collective of over 40 performers who put on shows that include elements of jazz, soul, and a plethora of other styles. Beyond the music, it’s mostly just a good excuse for my friends and I to put on suits, drink too much cheap wine, and go dance with crazy people in New York City. I highly recommend it. Their Halloween concerts are always the biggest shows of the year, and this one was no exception. It’s just a really great time with really awesome people—I even ended up accidently stage-diving when I tripped over some microphone cables during “Only Anarchists are Pretty!”
Slayer, 6/6/06, at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ. One of the loudest, most brutal shows I’ve ever witnessed. The lineup—Children of Bodom, Mastadon, Lamb of God, and, of course, Slayer—killed it. Bonus: Max Weinberg, of Conan O’Brian house band and drumming for Bruce Springsteen fame, was seated directly behind me for the entire show. Yeah, I was a little starstruck.
Black Sabbath & Iron Maiden, 8/11/05, at Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ. The opportunity to see two metal legends is an experience I’ll always remember. Maiden blew Ozzy Osbourne and the rest of Sabbath out of the water, unsurprisingly.