“You who are about to rock, we salute you!”
There is a moment when a band in concert goes from being a band you like to, during that night, the greatest band on earth. There are moments that cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end. You remember where you were at, you remember who you were with and you remember all the good things associated with that concert. Buying the tickets, waiting in line outside of the venue, the anticipation before the show and then the moment when the music is happening, in real-time, right in front of your eyes.
Looking back, I have now gone to about 12 years worth of concerts and I have a lot of wonderful memories. Allow me to share with you my fifteen greatest concerts that I have been to.
15 – 77’s, 7/5/2002, Cornerstone
The 77’s have performed some legendary shows, and it was very difficult for me to pick just one 77’s show. But I had to go with Cornerstone, where a band that normally attracts 30 people in a dive pulls 2000 people into the late night tent for an amazing night of guitar-driven, flat-out rock. I chose the 2002 show because of the amazing three part set list, with the band playing familar hits first, the entire new EP second, and then a mezmerizing 30 minute medley of other hits. Combine this with a hot guitar duet between Mike Roe and Dave Beegle and this puts it over the top of all the other 77’s shows I’ve been to.
14 – Caedmon’s Call and Jars of Clay, 3/7/2003, Mt. Pisgah UMC
Only one month after one of the major singer-songwriter-driving forces of the band, Derek Webb, parted ways with the band to go solo, Caedmon’s Call went out on an ambitious tour with label-mates Jars of Clay. The crowd was absolutely into the show from the very beginning and show was a bold statement that even without Derek Webb, the band would still deliver powerful, worshipful, intelligent music. The show was so incredible that as openers they absolutely blew away the headlining Jars of Clay, which didn’t have such a bad show, but was simply plain compared to Caedmon’s Call’s inspiring show.
13 – Petra, 5/9/97, Woodstock First Baptist
Probably the last hurrah for one of my favorite bands as a high school student. Joined by my good friend, David Richardson, we saw Petra lead the cavernous First Baptist Woodstock full of people in a night of worship. This was years before the “Praise and Worship” fad hit Christian Music. The musicianship was remarkable and the band was on. Petra hasn’t come close to reaching this peak since.
12 – Phil Keaggy, Scott Dente, Wes King, 3/14/98, Samford University
Three great guitarists joined forces for a great album and then a great tour. This show has great memories for me from the great drive I had out to Birmingham with Jeremy Myers. The combination of artists was interesting, from CCM poster-boy Wes King, to accoustic expert Scott Dente from Out of Grey. Then there was Phil Keaggy, cutting up and effortlessly playing out licks, and making us all laugh one moment and drop our jaws the next.
11 – U2, 3/30/2001, Philips Arena
I think this show ranks so low, not because it wasn’t so incredible, but because the next time I saw them in concert was so much better. (More on that later) Great seats for this show, we were five rows off of the floor. And U2 was U2. Only this band can make a full arena feel like they are a part of the show, from the top row of the arena down to the middle of the heart on the stage.
10 – Newsboys, 4/5/97, Atlanta Civic Center
Picking one Newsboys show was also difficult. Lots of high school memories of shows as David and I saw show after show by the Newsboys. Oh, the rotating drums. A gimmick, but it worked. This show had no rotating drums, but the band coming down on individual spaceships which transformed into screens for video display was pretty cool. The song “Lost the Plot” just couldn’t be ignored, but demanded my attention and struck me deeply.
9 – Over the Rhine, 7/4/98, Cornerstone
This band has had many memorable shows at Cornerstone also, but this was my first midnight Gallery show. I looked forward to it during the entire Cornerstone festival and I was rewarded. The six-piece version of Over the Rhine was hitting their peak and so many songs were just amazing. I didn’t care that the show ended at 2AM.
8 – The Violet Burning, 7/3/2000, Cornerstone
Another Cornerstone show. It should come as no surpise that I have so many wonderful Cornerstone memories. This festival simply makes it easy to have landmark concerts and memorable moments with so much talent there, artists so easily accessible, and bands showing up and delivering their most inspired concerts for the year. This concert reunited me with The Violet Burning after they dropped off my radar in 1993. The band was even better than I remembered, and worshiping God while singing “As I Am” with everyone else in the crowd was a moment I’ll never forget.
7 – Rich Mullins Tribute Concert, 7/5/98, Cornerstone
Rich had been dead for nine months now and everyone was finally beginning to put into words how much he meant to them. I had discovered Rich only a year ago. (more on that later) Rich’s friends all covered his songs and shared their favorite stories about him and then his all-star band, The Ragamuffin Band played their new album, written by Rich before his death. While Rich may have been the subject of the concert, it was very clear who the object of worship was that night.
6 – Petra, 10/30/92, Atlanta Civic Center
My first rock concert and that’s probably why it ranks so high on the list, but it was also Petra in their prime. Arena rock was dying, but for one more night, we could listen to anthemic songs, pump our fists, and sing about the Lord. This is probably more nostalgic than anything else, but it began a long love-affair with the live concert that I’m still not over.
5 – Yes, 8/13/2002, Hi-Fi Buys Ampitheatre
This was a great concert, not just because it was reunion between the band members, with Rick Wakeman appearing on stage with Yes, but it was a reunion of old friends as I joined Will McDaniel for this show. Not only did we have great seats, but the show absolutely rocked. I remember turning to Will during the intermission in the middle of the concert and saying that I could leave now and feel like I got my money’s worth.
4 – Caedmon’s Call, 9/12/99, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church
My first experience meeting the band members backstage. The crowd was loud, probably one of the loudest concerts I’ve ever been to. Great seats right up front. The band covered Toad the Wet Sprocket’s “Walk On The Ocean” and Second Chapter of Act’s “There’s A Stirring” and played almost every one of my favorite songs.
3 – Over the Rhine, 12/17/97, Caffe Milano
This concert closed out an era in my life (more on that in a minute) and is another concert that has such great memories associated with it due to the weekend that I travelled to see the show and the town that I stayed in while there for the weekend. Caffe Milano had all the glitz and glamour of a New York club and Over the Rhine was the band to draw out that sophistication and art. Plus, I’m a sucker for old Christmas carols.
2 – Rich Mullins, 6/25/97, Mt Carmel Church
This concert changed my life more than any other show I’ve been to. At this show, I learned not only that there is joy in being broken and that I don’t have to have it all together all the time, but I also learned about the “reckless, raging fury” of the love that the Lord possessed for us and how hard he pursues us. This night cracked me open and forced me to re-examine myself and began an era where I learned more about where I stood in God’s Kingdom than ever before or since.
1 – U2, Elevation Tour, 11/30/2001, Philips Arena
After 9/11/2001, I went to a lot of concerts. I don’t know if it was just timing, or I just needed diversions to get away from the television. I went to a lot of amazing shows by Caedmon’s Call, The Vigilantes of Love, Derek Webb, and others. However, this show was hands down the best of all of them. U2 sensed the hurt of a country and wrapped their arms around it. It was absolutely impossible not to be broken up when Bono clutched an American flag during “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” An added treat was when the band pulled an fan from the crowd to play “People Get Ready” with them. And when “Where The Streets Have No Name” started, well, you already know how I feel about that….