Led Zeppelin Picture this scenario: you're on your deathbed, all of your finances are in order and amends have been made in every single one of your personal relationships. Something is wrong though; something keeps persistently gnawing at your emotions of regret until you realize that, as a fan of Rock and Roll, there were too many missed opportunities throughout your life. Too many nights, watching concerts from the latest fad, instead of seeing the true greats of arena history. If only you could go back in time, perhaps forgo that night wasted on The Spin Doctors and trade that experience for a night with one of the legends listed below.

Well, there is still time. This is why, call it our moral duty, to present to you the five concerts you need to see before you die.


5. Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam has an interesting history. Once the darlings of the early 1990's grunge scene, Eddie Vedder and company have firmly taken over the reigns of the traveling show that The Grateful Dead and Phish left behind. While many bands from the grunge era faded into obscurity - or worse - Pearl Jam has thrived by reinventing themselves as a live band that attracts fans - or as they are known: The Jamily - that will travel with the band for weeks on end. Esquire magazine labeled Pearl Jam the best live act of 2006. Rolling Stone magazine compared the arena presence of Pearl Jam to stadium legends such as U2, Bruce Springsteen and The Who, high praise indeed.




4. Paul McCartney

The Beatles are long gone. Only two of the original four members are still alive and only Paul McCartney remains from the legendary songwriting team of Lennon/McCartney. While, obviously, not a Beatles' concert; it is the closest thing to experiencing why the Beatles are considered the greatest band of all time. This - not to mention his excellent work in Wings along with his hit and miss solo work - is the primary reason to attend what is still a spectacular concert.

A Paul McCartney concert is not on the same level, as far as raw emotion, as the other bands mentioned on the list. His ability to recapture the sound of those Beatles classics is worth the price of admission alone, perhaps more so. The Beatles officially stopped touring in 1966 because the music they were producing - for albums such as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Magical Mystery Tour" - was too complex to perform live. This is no longer the case with modern technology. Of course it is not the likes of John Lennon and George Harrison joining him on stage, but a lot of the songs he performs off of the "Sgt. Pepper" album on recent tours was the first time these songs have ever been heard live.




3. Led Zeppelin

Arguably the most anticipated concert of this decade was the reunion of Led Zeppelin (with Jason Bonham replacing his late father on drums) on December 10, 2007 for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert in London. Led Zeppelin, of course, is one of the most legendary rock bands of all time. Before this event - since the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980 - Led Zeppelin, for all intents and purposes, was no more. The group would reunite in some capacity from time to time - including an almost embarrassing performance at Live Aid - for one off charity events, but never for more than a few songs.

The full concert in 2007 - which by all accounts was a master performance - has lead to wide media speculation that a full tour might be in the bands future. Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant (who is touring with Alison Krauss) has denounced these rumors but a fall 2008 tour does not seem to be out of the question. A tour, if it happens, that should not be missed by any fan of these Rock and Roll legends, or Rock and Roll in general.




2. U2

In the 1990's U2 soared to new heights as a live act, firmly entrenching themselves as the best live band in the world. That is at least until the former - and current king - reclaimed his throne. U2, obviously, always had a strong following, but it was not until the late 1980's - with "The Joshua Tree" tour - that their reputation as a live act blossomed in the United States. This was due, in part, to the success of the "Rattle and Hum" documentary, which let the viewer feel the emotions of what it was like to attend a U2 concert even if they did not get a chance to attend in person.

As mentioned earlier, U2 hit a new level in the early 1990's with the "Zoo TV" tour. Combining their natural energy with an all-out onslaught of video imagery, "Zoo TV" - used to promote the "Achtung Baby" album - went down as one of the most memorable and successful tours of all time. U2 was on top of the world. The only thing that could stop U2 at this point was U2, and they nearly did that with the "PopMart" tour. Though still considered a successful tour, U2 forgot that raw emotion could propel the greatness of a concert more than any elaborate set of lights and rapid-fire media images; in other words - too much.

Thankfully, by the time U2 embarked on the stripped down "Elevation" tour, U2 was back with their most emotionally raw show since "The Joshua Tree" tour. U2 was back and would still be the best live show in the world if not for the man U2 lead singer Bono would introduce before his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1999 (see number one), to which the same man would return the favor for U2 six years later.





1. Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band

Rolling Stone magazine recently declared Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band the best live act. This, in itself, is not surprising; Springsteen is well known for having a great live performance throughout the years. The amazing part is Rolling Stone magazine named them the best live act - in the last year!

Springsteen concerts were already a thing of legend by the late 1970's, often transforming into four-hour marathon sessions that would keep the audience energized into the wee hours of the night. In 1984 - for better or worse - everything exploded. With the release of "Born in the U.S.A" Springsteen became a bonafide superstar. Gone were the days of playing clubs, Bruce and the band were not just selling out arenas, they were selling out stadiums without losing the passion that made them famous in the first place.

In late 1989 Bruce parted ways with the E-Street band. He toured in the early 1990's to promote the albums "Lucky Town" and "Human Touch" with a group of studio musicians. The backing band, though talented, never quite clicked with Springsteen, leading this tour to be dubbed "The Other Band" tour by Springsteen fans. After a mid 90's acoustic tour (quite humorously known as the "Shut the F*ck Up Tour," labeled so because of the many times Bruce had to scold the crowd for yelling out requests for his more "hard rocking" material) Bruce reunited the band for good - after a brief reunion in 1995 - for the highly successful 1999-2000 "Reunion Tour."

Fans did not know if this was a permanent reunion, it was. After the events of September 11, 2001, no single artistic response to the attacks was as powerful and moving as "The Rising." Springsteen and the E-Street Band launched a world tour. If the "Reunion Tour" was a trip down memory lane, "The Rising Tour" was a full on Rock 'n' Roll assault, peaking with eleven sold out shows at Giants Stadium in the summer of 2003. U2 kept the throne warm during the 1990's but after "The Rising", Springsteen regained his title of the best live act in the world with authority.

On Springsteen's current tour, "Magic", a new generation has discovered him. Bruce has become a bit of an "indie" darling propelled by endorsements, and joint concert appearances, by groups such as Arcade Fire. Springsteen even admits, in an interview with Spin Magazine last year, he believes this new generation of fans does not judge him - again, for better or worse - on the stigma associated with the success of "Born in the U.S.A." Instead, judging him on the music. Springsteen is now, and forever will be, The Boss.




Mike Ryan
Story by Mike Ryan


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