Good Things Bringing Back Memories of Bad Things

Sitting here listening to Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged album from a few years back.  I actually like it.  There are a lot of points where her voice gives out, she rambles on at points like a drunken uncle at a family gathering and she preaches a bit too much (to the point where you are embarrassed for her), but I still like it.  Unfortunately, back when this was released, my wife bought me tickets to the concert.  I say unfortunately because it was terrible.  Absolutely terrible.  So with that, I bring you the Worst 5 and Top 5 concerts I have been to.

Worst 5

5. BB King @ the Hershey Centre – Mississauga

Good Lord this was bad.  BB played like he had somewhere else he needed to be.  He rushed through songs, destroying classics like “The Thrill is Gone” by taking a sweaty, heavy bassline that drips sexiness and turning it into a theory exercise.  The cherry on top was when people were walking out near the end and BB got fed up, finished his set and walked off.  The people who were left were cheering for an encore, but from my neck craning seat, we could see that BB had put on his jacket, packed his bag and was gone.  No joke.

4. Amy Winehouse @ the Mod Club – Toronto

I remember when I was listening to this show that I actually thought she sounded pretty good for somebody who was completely and utterly smashed.  I mean, when I’ve knocked back four drinks in an hour and tried to sing, it has been nothing short of horrific, but Amy actually sounded good.  Too bad she was so smashed (and possibly high on something) that she forgot half of the lines to her songs.  Low points were a) Amy crouching on stage for extended periods so that nobody could see her and b) Amy’s jeans hanging on a shard of bone sticking out from her pelvis.  Everybody in that crowd wanted to pull those things up for her.

3. B-52’s/Violent Femmes – Canada’s Wonderland

I should actually only say that the Violent Femmes part of the show was bad, because the B-52’s were tons of fun.  When a band has a song called “American Music” and comes out and says, “Yeah, we were going to call this song ‘I Love Canadian Music’, but like, we don’t, so we didn’t”, you know they’re not exactly happy to be there.  It showed.

2. Bloodshot Bill – (some club I don’t remember) – Montreal

Have you ever been in a situation where you think you’re a fairly cool individual, but you instantly start to question things when everybody else seems into something and you’re not?  And I don’t mean where you know the situation is going to be something you’re not into, but you’re curious so you go anyway, I’m talking about something where you show up expecting something normal and the people around you look like you do, but all of a sudden they all rip off masks to show that they are freakazoids and you’re not.

That was the Bloodshot Bill show.  One guy with a few instruments attached to his body, banging away and making no sense.  I walked out of there backwards.

1. Lauryn Hill at Place-des-Arts – Montreal

It always hurts that much more when somebody you appreciate screws up.  Not just in concerts, but in any part of life.  I went from loving Lauryn Hill to despising her in just over an hour.  My wife paid $150 for two tickets in the balcony.  Pretty pricey.  Lauryn strolls onto stage and:

a) starts mumbling about how some songs she wrote on the plane on the way to Montreal

b) tells us she hasn’t practiced some songs yet and hoped we didn’t mind

c) tells a guy who requested “Zion” that it won’t be that kind of show and that she’s past that part of her life, that she realized something, blah blah blah, freedom, get free, blah blah blah

Anyway, I could go on forever about this show and how bad it was, but let’s put it this way.  People in the front row paid around $250 for one ticket and they were walking out.  Not a word of a lie.  When a drummer walked on stage (the only additional musician there that night…if there was one in the first place), people went wild, cheering for him like Jon Bonham just walked on stage.  Horrible night.

Best 5

5. The Black Crowes – Kool Haus – Toronto

Chris Robinson walks out and says, “Whoa Toronto, it smells like George Bush’s worst nightmare in here.”  Then they proceed to blow the crowd away, sounding like the band hadn’t been apart for a second.  The show went on forever, closing with “Remedy” as the encore.  Beautiful night.

4. White Stripes – Molson Amphitheatre – Toronto

Jack and Meg walk out, quickly wave to the crowd and tear into a set that starts with about 5 songs in a row with a millisecond between each song.  You won’t ever fully appreciate how good Jack is on a guitar until you’ve heard him live.

3. Elvis Costello – Place-des-Arts – Montreal

I was a little nervous about this one, because he had just started dating Diana Krall and I thought it was going to be the end of his music life.  He turned out a well thought out concert, with some old, some new, some in the works.  A true professional (I’ll just ignore some of the disparaging comments about minorities he made back in the day).

2. Isaac Hayes – Massey Hall – Toronto

I was embarrassed that the place was only 2/3 full.  I wanted to personally apologize to Isaac on behalf of the city of Toronto.  If you have ever heard “By the Time I Get To Phoenix”, you’ll know how Isaac starts the song with a story.  I’ve listened to it a million times, but when he performed that song at the show, I listened on the edge of my seat like I was hearing it for the first time.  The setup was great, backup singers were fantastic, I honestly feel blessed to have had a chance to listen to a real musician like Isaac Hayes play live.

1. Blur – Kool Haus – Toronto

The young and drunk Damon Albarn and the sober and mature Damon Albarn are light years apart.  I’ve seen both, they are both entertaining, but the best concert I have ever been to was after Damon had sobered up and showed up in Toronto with gospel style backup singers, an extended drum set, guest instruments (like violins) and a fitted black jacket that said he meant business.  Blur nailed every song and used everything they brought to their benefit.  The backup singers were fantastic and Damon did a good job of letting them come to the forefront.  A good mix of songs and they played for a long time.  I went to this show by myself and to this day wished somebody could have experienced that night with me.  Then again, I am kind of happy I enjoyed it by myself.  Sometimes you appreciate things more like that, no bloody distractions.


  1. avatar Lang Says:

    I realized I’ve been to 4 concerts with you, and none of them topped either list. Two Jamiroquai concerts, The Black Crowes at Massey Hall, and Pharcyde.

    Maybe I’m just mundane like that.

  2. avatar Jay Says:

    The Black Crowes at Massey Hall was good…funny point of the night being security swooping in on our buddies who lit a joint like they had pulled out a bomb. YOU CAN’T DO THAT IN HERE!!!

    At Jamiroquai 1 – There were lots of chicks with dudes who had no business being with them and they wouldn’t let anybody dance in the aisles.

    At Jamiroquai 2 – How many times did Jay Kay say he was happy to be in Toronto?

    Pharcyde…that was just strange without Fatlip. But still good.

  3. avatar Lang Says:

    Jamiroquai 1 – Fantastic concert, and possibly the most depressing day of the year for me.

    Jamiroquai 2 – Loved how he paused every time after saying ‘Toronto’ or ‘Friday night’ like we were winning a championship.

    Pharcyde – Waited 2 hours for the group to show up blitzed out of their skulls, but I still had fun. Also was the first night in my life I drank more than one beer. That was the start of something beautiful.

  4. avatar Anonymous Says:

    you have horrible taste.

  5. avatar Jay Says:

    Yeah, sometimes I do…no argument there.

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