Here’s a Baker’s Dozen of my favorite moments from live shows past.
1968 – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas @ Bowdoin College. My very first show. I still swear that Martha winked at me during “Dancing in the Streets.”
1969 – James Brown and the Famous Flames @ The Portland Expo. I’d be willing to bet that the crowd that night set a record for the largest assemblage of black people ever assembled at one place/time in the state of Maine. Both the man and the crowd rocked my world.
1970 – Muddy Waters @ Bates College. After an opening act by an unknown blues band from Boston billed as the J. “Giles” (the PA guy pronounced it with a “J” sound) Band, Muddy came out in a wheel chair and wowed us all.
1971 – The Byrds @ Bowdoin College. Bummed that they hadn’t played my favorite song, I scored with the encore: “Hey—.. Mr. Spaceman, Won’t you please take me along? I won’t do anything wrong.”
1974 – Jesse Colin Young, The Beach Boys, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young @ Denver’s Mile High Stadium. Playing hooky from my summer job to catch this dream triple-bill, I took my seat at packed Mile High only to find myself seated right next to my boss. Oh, well.
1974 – Ray Charles @ a Denver nightclub. I went to buy tickets in the afternoon and heard the sounds of the man himself rehearsing in the back room with his orchestra. The ticket guy told me he was sold out but granted my plea to listen in on rehearsal. I walked in to find the Raelets sitting at a table and one of them invited me over to talk and have a drink. Then Ticket Guy came over and slipped me three tickets. I hung out for the rest of the afternoon — What a perfectionist Ray was!!! — and came back that night. Incredible day/night!
1975 – Taj Mahal @ Colby College. I’ve seen Taj several times and he never disappoints. On this night he made up a catchy folk song about Waterville, Maine (home of Colby) right on the spot.
1991 – NRBQ @ The Hyde School Field House. For Hyde’s 25th Birthday celebration, I blew the entertainment budget on these guys. Worth every penny!
1994 – Albert Collins @ Raoul’s Roadside Attraction in Portland, ME. On that night, The “Master of the Telecaster” blew out the room by wandering table-to-table during an extended solo. Approaching my vicinity, he sat down across from me, put his boots on the table, and jammed away. R.I.P. Albert. R.I.P. Raoul’s.
1997 – John Hiatt @ Hyde-Woodstock. I had the privilege of opening the show with a version of The Band’s “I Don’t Wanna Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes.” My band, Little Malcolm and the Shady Characters, did an excellent job of covering for my voice. Then John Hiatt came out and thanked “Blind Lemon Malcolm” for warming up the crowd. (I think he also said something about holding on to my day job but I was lost in rock & roll fantasy by that point.)
1998 – Van Morrison and Bob Dylan @ Madison Square Garden. During his set, Van the Man announced that rockabilly guitar giant Carl Perkins had died that day. On cue, Dylan walked out wearing blue suede shoes and the two of them jammed on Perkins’ classic song of the same name.
2001 – Nanci Griffith @ NYC’s Beacon Theatre. I just happened to be staying at the Beacon Hotel and just happened to check out who was playing at the adjoining theater of the same name. It just happened to be Nanci Griffith. And it most definitely just happened to be awesome.
2008 – Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood @ Madison Square Garden. Margo Calvetti Frost (Hyde alum and board member emeriti) and I sat in the fourth row, right in front of these two icons. At one point, I looked back to see Martha Stewart sitting several rows behind us. I wanted to say, “Yo, Martha, you gotta know the right people!”
Compiling this list caused me to commit the sin of omission. Apologies to other musicians who have given me some great moments of live listening pleasure: Mose Allison, The Band, Karla Bonoff, Junior Brown, Shawn Colvin, Dr. John, Steve Earle, Earl “Fatha” Hines, B.B. King, Leo Kottke, Michael McDonald, Buddy Miles, Martin Mull, Randy Newman, Oscar Peterson, Rolling Stones, Tom Rush, Sha Na Na, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Livingston Taylor, Ten Years After, Three Dog Night (at the Woodstock, CT Fair!), and Loudon Wainwright.
Rock on, Malcolm Gauld