/

The Official Completely (and Objective) Guide to Concert Evaluations

811 views

In 2005, I moved from the comfort of my suburban condo and made my way into Philadelphia. In the previous decade, my social life revolved more and more around the city, so after about a year of spending six nights a week there, it simply made sense to live there. 

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Before I’d moved there, I rarely attended concerts, for a couple of reasons – it was a pain to find parking, and even harder to leave. I’d also been under-impressed with most of my previous concerts – the music sounded better on vinyl or a CD, so my money went there instead.  

From my apartment in Northern Liberties, the Electric Factory was just a couple blocks’ walk, one of the more popular concert venues for alternative music. 

My neighbors loved the same music I did, so I slowly attended more and more concerts. When I moved to Fairmount, I still had access to the Electric Factory via public transportation, but lived closer to smaller venues for up and coming bands:  Johnny Brenda’s (right down the Girard Avenue trolley), or the Northstar Bar.  

And I began to write. 

It was around that time in 2007 that I began to track which concerts I’d attended, and which concerts I thought were the best. After a few years, I created a ratings system which allowed me to objectively* rank and evaluate my concerts.  

*sarcasm font

The criteria:

  1. The artist/band needs to connect with the audience
    My favorite example of this was when Travis played the Electric Factory. The concert was more like a VH1 Singer/Songwriter episode, with Fran Healy telling a story about each song.  Travis isn’t a high-energy band, so this was a unique way to relate to a large-ish audience. 

    At one point, someone in the crowd interrupted Healy’s story with a “WOOOOO!!!! TRAVIS!!!!” to which Healy replied:  Shut the f*ck up!  I’m trying to tell a story! as he was giving the background to “Flowers in the Window”. The audience screamed in approval.  By the time they came out for their encore, we hung on the edge of our seats…and they broke into AC/DC’s “Back in Black”…and killed it. Mind blown.

    It might be city-specific. For instance, Ida Maria (a Norwegian alt rock artist) shared with us how surprised she was to actually see the steps Rocky ran up in the movie. Without missing a beat, the lead guitarist broke into Gonna Fly NowFrom that point on, Ida Maria had us.
  1. The artist needs to give the audience what it expects. 
    In other words, a concertgoer will be disappointed if the song they came for isn’t played. I remember years ago a couple of friends went to see The Steve Miller Band, which instead of playing all of their hits straight forward, chose to play a bluesy version of them. It was not what my friends expected, and they were disappointed. I think that’s why Springsteen kills it; he will play for HOURS until everyone in the audience can walk away ecstatic with something from his playlist. 

I’ll stop here for a moment to share the one time a band missed on both of these marks, making it the worst concert I’d ever seen:

She Wants Revenge, an LA gothic rock band opened for Placebo at the Electric Factory. I’d seen She Wants Revenge a few months earlier and they’d crushed it to the point where a friend who’d never heard them before said, “This is one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to!”, but this time most of the audience wasn’t interested in seeing them. The audience milled around, their sound lost into the vast space of the 1200 seat arena.

Then came Placebo. They’d just released their 2006 album Meds, and the audience was pumped. I owned that album, plus 3 of their earlier releases. They walked out, said nothing to the audience, played 9 songs off Meds, then walked off. No encore…nothing.  Worst experience ever.

  1. The artist needs to look like they’re having fun. 
    One night at the Tower Theater I saw The National open for Arcade Fire on the Neon Bible tour. I hadn’t heard of The National before; my friend and I were talking as they performed, but each song we’d stop and listen, then finally gave up talking because they did an incredible set. 

    Arcade Fire followed, and they spent the evening switching off instruments, talking with us and each other, cracking jokes, and at one point the keyboardist played a set of motorcycle helmets as the percussion within a song. It was perfect.
  1. The overall concert experience needs to exceed expectations. 
    This obviously takes into account the above three points, but for me it is cost-related as well. When I spend $20 on a show, I’m not expecting as much as I would when I spend $200. Also, because I’m a cheapskate, I wouldn’t spend $200 on a ticket. 

    In 2008, The Police were at Citizens Bank Ballpark, and a friend called me to see if I wanted to join him on the outfield for the show. Not a week earlier, I’d read an article where one of the members admitted they were doing it for the money, and at $200 I didn’t think they could “earn” it. I told my friend at that price I expected Jesus to descend from the heavens and perform When The World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still AroundHe didn’t, fortunately, since I didn’t go.

With that in mind, there are my top 10 concerts:

  1. Arcade Fire/The National (39)
  2. Muse/Cold War Kids (38)
  3. Japandroids (38)
  4. The Soft Pack (37)
  5. The Cribs/Ra Ra Riot (34)
  6. Tokyo Police Club (33)
  7. Passion Pit (31)
  8. Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Asobi Seksu (31)
  9. Viva Voce/Cut Off Your Hands (30)
  10. Pete Yorn (30)

A few thoughts:

  1. I’ve seen Japandroids twice:  once at Union Transfer (holds 1200 people) at Kung Fu Necktie (about 120).  Blew me away both times, but obviously preferred the smaller venue, although I had ringing in my ears for about a week later.
  2. I first heard Passion Pit when living in Australia in 2008, and when a friend of mine told me Michael Angelakos had put together a band to tour, we bought tickets for the Bowery Ballroom on June 20, 2009. I believe it was the second show they’d ever done. It was awesome.

    I saw them again a few weeks later in the basement of the First Unitarian Church (an underrated concert venue) on the hottest day of the summer…and there was no air conditioning. Band was fine, but it was a horrible show. Finally saw them at the Mann Music Center in front of 14,000. They’d made it.
  3. When I went to see Pains… I suggested to my friend what their first song would be, then their second. Then their third. I didn’t know their set list, but a couple of women in front of me turned around…”Have you seen them before??!!” I hadn’t, but they scored a 10/10 for criteria #2 that night.
  4. Cut Off Your Hands was one of my favorite bands I’d discovered in Australia, and I got to see them twice in Philly – once at Northstar Bar, then opening at Johnny Brenda’s.  After that concert they came back with me to West Philly for a party that didn’t end until about 5 am.  

What’s your favorite concert, or best example of the criteria I’ve listed?


Let the author know that you liked their article with a “heart” upvote!

7
0

Thank You For Your Vote!

Sorry You have Already Voted!

Views: 150

Subscribe
Notify of
23 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
cappiethedog
Member
Famed Member
cappiethedog
Offline
June 16, 2022 4:48 am

Deacon Blue is a favorite of mine. Never quite found an audience stateside. Maybe this is why. I think it was the Los Angeles Times. I read a story about their lead singer Ricky Ross berating the crowd for not connecting with him.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: “With or Without [Peggy Wang]”. I must have watched “Young Adult Friction” LIVE at The Levi’s/FADER Fort at a minimum of fifty times. That’s indie rock. I love that song so much.

If I lived in Philadelphia, I’d want to see Sheer Mag. They’re my favorite current band. It’s not even close.

I enjoyed this a lot, thegue.

Phylum of Alexandria
Member
Famed Member
June 16, 2022 7:49 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

Soul Glo!

cappiethedog
Member
Famed Member
cappiethedog
Offline
June 16, 2022 12:51 pm

Hit pause after thirty-three seconds of watching Soul-Glo at Voltage Lounge to write, yeah, I get them.

Phylum of Alexandria
Member
Famed Member
June 16, 2022 7:48 am

Aw, so nice to see photos of the old Electric Factory (now the Franklin Music Hall? blegh) and Johnny Brendas. I miss my city.

I haven’t lived in Philly for 16 years now, but most of the concerts I’ve seen in my life were there. Maybe even a few once you had moved there. I believe in 2005/2006 I saw Animal Collective, TV on the Radio, Franz Ferdinand, Deerhoof, Sonic Youth, Mogwai, Danielson Familie, and a few others. Mostly at the Starlight Ballroom if I remember correctly, but a few were at the Electric Factory, the Troc, or the TLA (and Franz Ferdinand was at Shampoo, which was weird).

Other notable EF shows include: David Bowie, Fugazi, Bauhaus, Amy Winehouse, Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, Patrick Wolf, Zwan, John Cale, and The Creatures.

David Bowie in 1997 is still a major highlight, and an utter success based on your evaluation criteria. It was an intimate night out with one of the biggest names in rock, with him playing for about 3 hours. Lots of deep cuts as well as big hits, and lots of Bowie at his most down-to-earth and charming between the songs.

One of the worst shows was Clinic. I really like their studio output, but they played like they were machines set on speed-run, just pounding out song after song lightning fast until the set was over, and they left without encore. The venue lights came on and my friends and I were like, “what did we just watch?” It was impressive in how weird it was, but it was not at all engaging.

Last edited 2 years ago by Phylum of Alexandria
Virgindog
Member
Famed Member
Virgindog
Offline
June 16, 2022 9:14 am

Of my ten favorite concerts, five are The Who. That’s either because they’re just that good or I’m a little obsessive. The other five are The Police, Pearl Jam, Garbage, Nine Inch Nails, and Minor Threat.

I’ve seen Pearl Jam and Garbage three times each and in both cases the best show was the first one. The were still on their way up and still excited. The other times, both bands were bored or tired or jaded. It was just another show. How disappointing.

On the other hand, I saw Nine Inch Nails twice in a year and they were completely different shows with different musicians, lighting and set lists. Trent Reznor knows how to keep it fresh.

Phylum of Alexandria
Member
Famed Member
June 16, 2022 9:22 am
Reply to  Virgindog

That’s awesome that you got to see Minor Threat. I imagine those early hardcore shows could probably get really wild. Could you even focus on the music?

Virgindog
Member
Famed Member
Virgindog
Offline
June 16, 2022 9:32 am

That show was at Gallery East in Boston and it was insane. They hit the first note and the mosh pit went nuts. I was off to the side standing on a chair and got a full view of the madness. I was into the music and how great the drummer was, but it was sensory overload.

Something similar happened when i saw The Dead Kennedys. I spent most of the show with both forearms against the wall protecting Ms. Virgindog between my elbows as the moshers bounced off my back.

And they say chivalry is dead.

Phylum of Alexandria
Member
Famed Member
June 16, 2022 9:43 am
Reply to  Virgindog

Virgindog memoir when?

Virgindog
Member
Famed Member
Virgindog
Offline
June 16, 2022 9:50 am

Heh, not until I’m done living it up.

mt58
Admin
Famed Member
mt58
Online Now
June 16, 2022 10:06 am

While driving at about 6:30PM on a cold November night, I heard on the radio that an 8:00 show had a few tickets left. On a complete impulse, I spun the car around started to drive the opposite way back into town. I paid my $9.50 at the box office and started to walk upstairs.

I made my way to the balcony in time for the openers, Kid Creole and The Coconuts. The place was hopping like they weren’t the warm-up act, but the main event.

Then the headliner came out, and completely blew the place away. Their quirky persona masked a savviness; although they came across as the average weirdos that their audience clearly identified with, you also knew that they were pros, and knew exactly what they were doing – to great success.

The passion for the band was joyous; not a naysayer in the house. 2800 people singing along with every word.

And jumping up and down, And landing really hard, with every beat of the music. I began to notice that there was maybe a little too much bounce under my feet; the balcony floor felt like it could give away at any moment. This was about a year after the Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati, so my imagination began to work overtime.

I kept glancing around to see if anyone shared my concerns, but I was apparently alone in my worries. I eventually convinced myself that it must be OK, and tried to just enjoy the scene.

So, the B52’s at the Orpheum in Boston on 11.06.1980, gets a dual-superlative nod for being both memorably entertaining, and terrifying at the same time.

JJ Live At Leeds
Member
Famed Member
June 16, 2022 12:31 pm

Passion Pit – yes!!! I’d heard the Chunk of Change e.p. and loved it. Sleepyhead was awesome. They came to Leeds early 2009 on a triple bill with Hockey and Bear Hands. It was advertised as a co-headlining deal between Passion Pit and Hockey so I’m not sure if they were alternating but we got it with PP up last, exactly how it needed to be. Bear Hands were good, Hockey were OK but it went off for Passion Pit.

It was at Brudenell Social Club, my favourite venue. Its only 400 capacity, its an old working man’s club with the main room looking like more like they’re expecting senior citizens bingo session but it has a great promoter and team behind it that draws in touring bands from around the world.

It was a Friday night and by the time Passion Pit came on everyone was well oiled and in full the weekend is here mode. It might have been February but inside it was sweltering, it was rammed, everyone was dancing (even me) and it really did seem so humid that sweat was running down the walls.

Despite the fact their lyrics can deal with struggle, depression and mental health its all delivered in such an upbeat manner, it was infectious. Looking round it was a scene of unbridled joy, everyone totally in the moment and the energy from the band was incredible.

Bad gig? Bob Dylan was quite something, I wrote about it in the comments over at the mothership sometime in the 80s. It was an epic quest to get tickets, we were on holiday in Spain when we saw the flyers for it. Ended up paying well over the odds from a tout on the night to get in and Bob never acknowledged there was an audience there. Head down, racing through song after song,  couldn’t recognise what he was playing but he stayed on for well over 2 hours and it was in an incredible venue, Malaga Bullring in the open air and warmth of the Spanish evening as the sun went down. And it was Bob. I couldn’t say we got value for money and based strictly on the music it was lousy but as a whole experience from spending a week trying to locate tickets to getting in on the last night of the holiday it was quite something.

dutchg8r
Member
Famed Member
dutchg8r
Offline
June 16, 2022 8:46 pm

Its strange, something in your write up, thegue, reminded me of an old nightclub in suburban Philly that I believe closed years ago, Pulsations.  It was a Big Deal to hear of kids from our high school who would make the drive down there – pretty sure acts would perform there too, I seem to recall being jealous of a friend of mine who was able to see a show there. Absolutely zero recall on the act, I was just jealous she was going to Pulsations (I want to say I was 13 maybe at the time?).

As for your SuperScientific Concert Ratings, I’m probably the worst person to provide an opinion, considering 75% of all shows I’ve attended over the years are Duran Duran related (I think I’m up to 14 shows of theirs?). Definitely the smaller the venue, the better the show.  Seeing Duran play House of Blues back in the late 90s, SRO packing about 1800 die hard Duranies in that place, they were amazing.  The band just fed off our excitement, they played some super deep cuts because they knew that crowd would know them (I have never, ever in my life heard an audience go as apeshit delirious over an artist performing something as I got to witness first hand at one of the shows where they did “Secret Oktober “, which was the b-side to Union of the Snake).  

I managed to show up early enough at HoB I would always get right at the stage or just behind the front row folks.  Literally within 8 feet of Simon LeBon.  This was when they first started doing “White Lines”, and so Simon would always do his water bottle swig and spray like in the video.  And somehow those of us up front at the receiving end of said spray thought it was funny we just got spit on by Simon LeBon – ‘baptized by Simon’ is what we called it.  Simon was really good about connecting with the audience too and was constantly making eye contact with everyone. Like, not staring at your forehead to pretend he’s making eye contact, but legit connecting with you. Singing right to you for those few seconds. I found it both unnerving and pretty damn awesome each time I was the recipient, always made me wonder how many other artists do that while performing.

Definitely preferred those more intimate venue shows.  But I will say this – I saw George Michael in Tampa in 2008, and he acted like he was hanging out with friends at the pub – that happened to hold 15,000 people.  He OWNED that place, it was absolutely amazing to witness.

But the one show that easily stands out and ticks all the boxes was The Power Station in 1997.  They played this nightclub in North Orlando, a club I would go to weekly with my friends for their 80s night on Wednesdays  (back when I could stay out late on a work night, get home at 3am, grab 2 hours of sleep and then drive up to Daytona for work at 6).  I can’t imagine the place held more than 600 people, but those guys rocked it like they were playing a festival for 100,000.  I was up front along the rail, Robert Palmer’s within arms reach, looking as dapper as ever and seemingly not breaking a sweat.  Andy Taylor is to his left, puffing away non stop with a fresh cigarette like every song, shades on, obviously just thrilled to be rocking out playing his gee-tar. John Taylor was in long overdue recovery/rehab mode at this time, so it was some touring bassist with them.  (Fun fact – their performance on SNL in 1985 was the only time all 4 members of Power Station actually played live together)

But the best, the absolute best, most mind-blowing thing about that show was seeing Tony Thompson live.  He didn’t make the drums go boom, he made them sonic boom.  It was insane how thunderous he was.  His drumming had an echo, cause I’d hear it – and feel it – live 15 feet from me, then get it smacking me sonically from the speakers a split second later.  Absolutely mesmerizing to watch him up close and in person like that.

Unless George Michael comes back from the dead and does a set in my living room, I will probably never have a concert experience top that Power Station gig.  I mean, these were seasoned pros with what, like 80+ years experience just between just the 3 of them by that point?  They knew how to hold a crowd and get them involved.  I’m almost positive they did a Chic song, they did some of Robert’s solo stuff, a few Duran songs, just fantastic. I’m sitting here grinning like a dope just remembering it as I type this.

The 1-2 punch of losing Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer within months of each other just a few years later was really lousy, to say the least.  So grateful I saw them when I did.

Last edited 2 years ago by dutchg8r
cappiethedog
Member
Famed Member
cappiethedog
Offline
June 17, 2022 4:01 am
Reply to  dutchg8r

Skipping Duran Duran was a poor choice. Months after they played, I discovered how much I liked their middle-to-late period stuff. I think Medazzaland and Pop Trash are underrated, in my opinion. I skipped Duran Duran, and yet said yes to a version of 10,000 Maniacs. 2018, however, was a banner year, the first time two acts I loved played in a twelve-month window. First up, Kacey Musgraves in a small venue. The Republik holds around 300-500 people; it was the unofficial start of the Oh, What a World tour. Nobody at my workplace wanted to go. My treat, too. In vain, I was trying to explain that she’s a burgeoning superstar. No such luck. Dragged my cousin’s daughter, a Carrie Underwood fan. I told her: Don’t listen to anything. Let it be a surprise. She had a blast. I don’t dance. I told her: “You’re distracting me. Go away. Go. Go!” I also saw a legacy band: New Order. They brought it. I saw and like The Cure and Depeche Mode more, but New Order put on a better show.

#JusticeForLadyXanax.

dutchg8r
Member
Famed Member
dutchg8r
Offline
June 17, 2022 9:21 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

Awww, Lady Xanax love!!! 😊 Pop Trash was when I got to meet them at a cd signing. Coming up soon on that virtual time back at the mothership in fact!

minor major 7th
Member
Noble Member
June 17, 2022 10:39 am

It took some time for me to reflect on this one. Here goes.

Worst gig: Bob Dylan.
This was in 2004 or so. No Direction Home had been released. A friend and I were deep into his catalogue and took it as an opportunity to see the legend. As discussed in a previous comment, it was disappointing. The band sounded great, but it took some effort to discern what song they were, in fact, playing. Dylan himself came across us unengaged, simply nodding after every song was done. It was at this time that I decided that, although I love his music, he is afflicted, somewhat with the God-complex of “worship me but don’t pay attention to me.” Whether this is all an act, I don’t know, but it created a disconnect with a singer-songwriter that has mastered the art of bridging the gap between singer and audience.

Most consistent: John Mayer.
Yes, John Mayer. I never paid attention to him before meeting my wife. Early on in our courtship, she invited me to a concert of his, claiming that I would, enjoy it because John Mayer is a great guitar player. I was skeptical. After all, I love her, but what does she really know about great guitar players?
Well, I was proven wrong. I had no idea that since “You’re Body is a Wonderland” that John Mayer had morphed into blues-rock player.

We have seen him several times since. It’s always a consistent, enjoyable show. And, yes, John Mayer has skills.

Best. Terell Stafford at The Village Vanguard.
Being raised in a Roman Catholic household, the idea of self-punishment was ingrained in me. So, of course, when my wife and I went to NYC one time, I thought to myself: I would love to go to the greatest jazz club ever, but I don’t really deserve to go. My wife pushed me to ignore that nonsense. We seized the moment, grabbed tickets, not knowing who was playing that night. Terell and his band were on fire. This will sound cliched, but I don’t care: you can feel all the history in that special, little cave that is the Village Vanguard.

cappiethedog
Member
Famed Member
cappiethedog
Offline
June 19, 2022 12:01 am

I saw Bob Dylan twice. Once at the Waikiki Shell. That would be in 1992. I don’t remember the setlist, save for “All Along the Watchtower” because he was supporting Good As I Been to You. No banter. Hardly made eye contact with the crowd. Never smiled. Didn’t say thank you. No encore. He returned in the late-nineties, during his renaissance, maybe two years after Time Out of Mind, this time on the UH-Manoa campus. Okay, I was thinking. I saw Dylan when he wasn’t at the top of his game. This concert is going to be different.

No banter. Hardly made eye contact with the crowd. Never smiled. Didn’t say thank you. No encore. It was the exact same performance, but with better songs.

lovethisconcept
Member
Famed Member
June 20, 2022 3:00 pm

Not sure that I can name one favorite concert, but I do have a few highlights. I was lucky enough to see Tom Petty a few times, but there was one performance that stood out. Petty had already been in conflict with his opening act, The Replacements, and this was the show where they decided to really piss him off. They were booed off the stage after 4 or 5 songs, and it seemed that he wanted to make it up to the audience for the bad experience. Petty came out and blew everyone away. He was just so good.

http://www.hotmetrofinds.com/REPLACEMENTS+COLOR+ME+IMPRESSED+FILM+hotmetrofinds+chicago+detroit+losangeles+nashville+Tom+PETTY.html

Last edited 2 years ago by lovethisconcept
jmf74
Member
Trusted Member
jmf74
Offline
June 20, 2022 6:53 pm

I saw Tom Petty back in 1999 and he was excellent. I am not sure what the best concert I’ve been to is. I saw Loretta Lynn in the mid-2000s, she was recovering from some kind of surgery and was seated, but she played an amazing show. Finally got to see Crowded House in Ann Arbor in 2007 and that was a wonderful show also. Saw them again in Chicago in 2008, and that concert was disappointing, not so much because of the band, but because of the venue and the other concertgoers. It was the beginning of the era of everyone not experiencing the concert, instead just holding up their cellphones to record the concert. Very annoying. Also, it seemed like a lot of the audience weren’t fans, but people who had gotten a ticket and were just waiting to hear “Don’t Dream Its Over.”

ozcorp
ozcorp
Offline
July 12, 2022 4:08 am

Hi Thegue
i have been to a lot of concerts, but my top 10 when reaching across my memory is (whithout order and a lot ot these are recentlyish, many bands didn’t tour Mexico for a long time)

-Yo la Tengo (2004)
-Portishead (2011)
-Daft Punk (2007)
-Dan Deacon (2015)
-David Byrne (2019)
-Radiohead (2008)
-Neutral Milk Hotel (2012)
-Pulp (2012)
-Nine Inch Nails (2005)
-Mogwai (2006)

The worst concert, at least in reagrds to sound would be Thievery Corporation but i don0t really think that was their fault. With regards to place, that would be Dylan, in that he played a place that was all flat whitout screens and bad sound so if you weren’t in the first 5 meters you were totally screwed.

Also, yes Japandroids kick ass live

https://www.instagram.com/p/CK7Xh9hDx_Z/

ozcorp
ozcorp
Offline
July 12, 2022 4:18 am
Reply to  ozcorp

also looking at your list:
Asobi seksu are great live, wish they would visit us again down here,

i have seen some amazing arcade fire shows, but i really wished they had visited us with the Funeral or the Neon Bible tours, they still had a fierceness that would be a little lost when they toured The Suburbs and next albums.

The first time i saw the National was in 2009 with Boxer and it would have been a perfect show if they had played About Today, which they couldn’t cuz they ran out of time (opening for Broken Social Scene)

Muse i saw them for the first time with the Blacks Holes and Revelations and wow, a crazy show where everybody was lossing it. Ever since then, their records have been quite lousy so haven’t really felt like paying to see them again (but have on two occasions while taking pics, finally heard the two of my favorites ast time: Blackout and Bliss, if they ever bring Screenager back into the setlists i may have to go once more)

23
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x