My dozen

My friend made a post to his Facebook where he attempted to list every concert he’d been to. He tagged me (and some of his other friends), challenging me to list every one that I had been to. Considering that I’ve been to hundreds of concerts over the span of more than three decades, there’s no possibility that I could list every concert I’ve been to. So instead I decided to post the dozen most notable concert experiences I’ve had.

  1. CaliFFornia World Music Festival
    Day 1 only – April 7, 1979
    Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
    CaliFFornia World Music Festival poster
    Who could forget their very first concert experience? Day one of this festival included Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Cheech & Chong, Toto, REO Speedwagon, Black Sabbath, and Journey, among others. We worked our way up very near the stage. It was so crowded there that, when my friend passed out, he remained standing.

  2. The Police
    Approx. 1981
    Sunrise Music Theater
    The first time I saw The Police in concert was on the Zenyattà Mondatta tour. What made this concert particularly memorable was the back seat of my car going up in flames on the drive up to the show. My buddies and I didn’t let that dampen our enthusiasm one bit. We just hauled the entire bench seat—which by then was a raging bonfire—out of the car and left it burning on the side of the Florida Turnpike, hopped back into my 1972 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and headed on our merry way into Sunrise. I saw them again over a quarter of a century later when The Police reformed for a reunion tour and you can read about that in We don’t need no stinking badges.

  3. The Rolling Stones
    October 25, 1981
    Orlando Stadium
    John and I drove all the way from Miami to see The Stones. The Tattoo You tour was the first of about a dozen “farewell tours” The Stones have played. The Stones had a band called Van Halen (Perhaps you’ve heard of them?) open for them. It was the last time Van Halen opened for another band. Personally, I liked Van Halen’s show better than The Stones’. David Lee Roth got the entire bowl on its feet from the beginning to the end.

  4. The US Festival
    September 3-5, 1982
    Glen Helen Regional Park The US Festival ticket
    This was the rock festival to rival Woodstock. It was held in an immense natural amphitheater with nothing less than the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Fernando Mountains backdropping a huge stage. It’s impossible to sum up three sunny days with a million people and fifteen major acts in a paragraph. All I can say is, the US Festival will forever remain unequaled as the greatest concert experience of my life. If you can handle the full uncensored story, read My 1982 US Festival Trip.

  5. The Who
    October 29, 1982
    Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
    It was just me, Scott, and 100,000+ of our closest friends in the Coliseum with festival seating and The Clash. What, you ask, is so notable about that? The Who headlined! Enough said.

  6. Supertramp
    September 25, 1983
    Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
    Mike and I were fortunate enough to sit in the twelfth row for this concert. The Meadows was a beautiful, open-air amphitheater built on the side of a hill. Because of this theater’s great sound reinforcement, we could really appreciate the layered vocal harmonies, percussion, and woodwind instruments of a Supertramp show. They played for hours and their performance was spotless. They seemed to be on an emotional high. During the intermission, we found out why. It turned out to be the last show that founding member Roger Hodgson played with the band, so they presented him with a gold watch.

  7. The Tubes
    Approx. 1986
    Ceasar’s Tahoe
    How do you explain a Tubes show to someone who’s never seen one? To say it’s outrageous and over-the-top doesn’t begin to do it justice. The stage was set with over-sized props and beautiful women in skimpy costumes dancing all over. Fee Waybill has an amazing imagination and boundless creativity, so the show was a feast for the eyes. Yet the musicianship of the band is so excellent that the music easily holds its own with the stage production. Not being gamblers, Mike and I went to the show looking for a way to pass the evening at South Lake Tahoe after a day of great snow skiing. We lucked out and were seated almost within an arm’s length of the stage.

  8. Eagles
    May 29, 1994
    Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
    This show turned out to be opening night of the Hell Freezes Over tour—the first time the band had played for a paying audience in fourteen years. There was this atmosphere of anticipation and build-up for this show that the band fed off of. Subsequently, the Eagles were in particularly rare form. By this time, I was using a wheelchair but, there under the stars on a beautiful summer night with my bro Jim, the wheelchair-accessible seating had a great view.

  9. Elton John and Billy Joel
    Approx. 1997
    The Forum
    Elton John and Billy Joel co-headlined on the Face to Face tour. I had previously seen Billy Joel in concert but had not seen Elton live, so Jim and I decided it was again time to see a show together. We were able to get the wheelchair seating near the left side of the stage in the first row of the upper-level, so it’s unobstructed. There was a Jumbotron directly in front of us, PA speakers on either side, and the stage laid out below us. Elton John opened the show with his band, playing a rocking set. Then the crew brought out a second grand piano and Billy Joel joined him on the stage. After another long set, Elton retired backstage and Billy Joel played a set with just his band. Finally, Elton rejoined him for a long encore.

  10. Santana
    October 14, 2005
    Home Depot Center
    I had been to numerous soccer games at the Home Depot Center but I was unfamiliar with the wheelchair seating for concerts. When Santana was going to play there, I decided to find out. Imagine my surprise to discover I could sit in the front row and my greater surprise to find out there was still wheelchair-accessible seating available! With seats that close, I had to buy tickets, even though I had already seen Santana live three times previously. Since the soccer field (where the stage is set) is below street level at the Home Depot Center, it turned out the only way to get there in a wheelchair is to take a freight elevator which opens up backstage. From there, Michael and I found our way to the field and over to the wheelchair seating area situated directly in front of the stage. After the show, we had to go backstage again to leave and were fortunate to encounter some of the band members there (although we did not get to meet Carlos).

  11. Van Morrison
    March 5, 2006
    The Wiltern
    By the time I saw this show, I had started The Progressive Zone, so for the full story on this show, read Van Morrison at The Wiltern.

  12. Roger Waters
    June 15, 2007
    Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
    For the full story on this show, read When pigs fly!

For every show listed above, I’ve probably seen a dozen other concerts whose story has yet to be written. They include acts like Queen, U2, Simon & Garfunkel, Yes, the Doobie Brothers, Rush, and Steely Dan—some of them numerous times. In fact, I’m sure there are many acts I’ve seen that I don’t even remember. So to keep things simple, I’ll end my list here with just a dozen of the most memorable concerts.

Van Morrison at The Wiltern

It was one of those nights where everything falls into place just right. The opposite of Murphy’s law: anything that could go right, did. A couple of times each decade I attend a concert the memory of which lasts forever. Last night was one of those nights.

I should’ve known it was going to be one of those nights when early in the day I tried to buy seats for UFC 59: Reality Check. Being the first time the UFC comes to California, it came as no surprise that it was sold out the first day the event went on sale. But I went to the Arrowhead Pond box office and asked if there was any wheelchair seating left. Sure enough, they sold me two tickets.

So I headed to Redondo Beach to pick up Anna. We went through Kenneth Hahn Regional Park to get to The Wiltern. Getting there as soon as the box office opened, I was hoping to be able to get a couple tickets to last night’s Van Morrison concert. It had been sold out for some time but they sometimes release a few held-back tickets the night of the show.

Normally it’s difficult to find parking in LA. However, there is plenty of parking by the theater … if you’re willing to pay $20 for it. But that’s not the way things went down for us on this night. Instead, I lucked out and found metered parking on the street right next to the theater. Of course, because I have handicapped tags, I could park there indefinitely without pumping any quarters in the meter. I flipped the homeless guy there a few bucks to keep an eye on my van, letting him know there was more where that came from when I would get back out to my secure vehicle after the show.

At the box office, I told David (yes, the guy at the window has the same name as I do) I needed wheelchair-accessible seating. Not only did he sell me two tickets but he sold them to me at the price of the nose-bleed tickets. However, the only wheelchair-accessible seats at The Wiltern are in the fifth row—just behind the pit!

Next, Anna and I headed down to El Cholo Cafe for dinner. Granted, those of us raised on homemade Mexican food know that El Cholo’s food is mediocre at best, but it’s good enough for a pre-concert dinner and it’s close to the theater. More importantly, their house margaritas (on the rocks) rawk! Made with real Cointreau and Cuervo 1800 tequila, they not only taste great but they also kick you on your ass. It turns out their tostada compuesta, with tasty homemade chorizo, is respectable too. More importantly, we headed to the show with a nice buzz on.

It was my first time at The Wiltern. We walked into a beautiful lobby with a crystal chandelier hanging in the middle. The floor manager, Arnold, met us. Knowing my special needs, he pointed out everything I needed to know about, then showed us to our seats. Yes, there were a few rows closer than us to the stage, but those in the orchestra pit had to look up at the stage. There in the front row of the main floor, we were at stage level and there were no better seats in the house. I turned around and looked back at the theater. It is spectacular in its classy, art deco glory!

Arnold sat a guy named Mike next to us. He’d not only been to The Wiltern before but he’d also seen Van Morrison live. They sat a good looking, young guy named Todd behind me. Anna was very pleased about that. Then we staked out a nice circumference where I could spin my wheelchair around and Anna could get up and dance. Once I staked that out, a couple of hot chicks showed up and sat down nearby, making me very pleased. The whole ambience of the people and the theater was so alluring that I looked behind me almost as much as I watched the stage.

Van Morrison started playing without an opening act. The sound reinforcement was top notch: the volume was loud, but not enough to make your ears ring, and the fidelity was excellent. Good thing, too, because Van Morrison’s band was so tight that it sounded like studio work. Van Morrison played sax and a beautiful guitar. There were at least a dozen other pieces on stage. He had a horn section (including a flugle horn), a percussionist along with the drums, a woman playing steel guitar, a grand piano and keyboards. Van Morrison was in great voice.

Yes, it was a fantastic night. I’ve been to other memorable concert events, but this one will rank up there as one of the best. And if an artist you’ve been wanting to see plays The Wiltern, do not miss the show!