Sean Manning (ed.) -- The Show I’ll Never Forget:
50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concert-Going Experience
This collection of essays contains mostly hits and a couple ?ops. At the top of the charts is Chuck Klosterman’s funny, finely crafted essay about seeing a Prince concert in Fargo, N.D. It was 1997, during Prince’s “preposterous TAFKAP period,” writes Klosterman, who was there to write a newspaper review, and thus faced a tight deadline. With the clock ticking, and no sign of Prince, Klosterman envisions the moody artist “walking onto the stage and wordlessly holding up four inexplicable fingers for the duration of the evening.”
Klosterman considers submitting a simple review: “Prince is a jerk.” But when Prince finally arrives, Klosterman has an epiphany. Watching the artist play numerous instruments “better than anyone ever had played them before,” he realizes Prince is a genius: “His ability to create and perform music is so inherent and instinctual that it cannot really be measured against normal criteria.” As a writer, Klosterman is similarly gifted.
In many of these essays, the music is secondary. Writer Luc Sante vividly describes the 1980s New York City punk scene, specifically detailing a 1981 concert where former Sex Pistol John Lydon taunts the crowd and triggers a riot, forcing Lydon’s band (Public Image Ltd.) to flee the stage. Jon Raymond’s essay expresses his loathing of “corporate” rocker Jon Bon Jovi. At a 1989 Bon Jovi concert, Raymond gets ejected by security and proceeds to the parking lot, where he jumps on top of cars and pisses in the backseat of a BMW.
The most memorably bizarre essay involves biographer David Ritz and blues legend Jimmy Reed. Reed performed in Dallas in 1958, when Ritz was a high-school reporter. Ritz asked Reed for a post-concert interview, and the bluesman invited the teenager into his limo. Just as the shy Ritz begins the interview, Reed starts arguing with his girlfriend. “Before I knew it,” writes Ritz, “Reed whipped out a razor blade from inside his jacket and … cut the woman on her upper arm.” A brawl ensued.
A determined Ritz waits in the limo outside a hospital while Reed and his girlfriend receive medical attention. Afterward, the three eat at an all-night restaurant, where the couple “doted affection on each other like newlyweds.” Ritz finally gets to ask Reed a question: “I just want to know about the blues.” Reed looks him square in the face. “You don’t know about the blues. You live them.”
There are also strong essays about Woodstock, a wonderful essay by Diana Ossana describing how seeing Led Zeppelin helped her recover from a failed marriage, and engaging, insightful pieces about Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana and The Pogues. Lowpoints include poet Paul Muldoon’s obscure, overly academic essay on seeing Horslip in Belfast, and novelist Lynne Tillman’s dull take on The Rolling Stones. “They had no affect,” writes Tillman, and neither does her essay.
While there are some glaring omissions (Bob Dylan) and some questionable inclusions (Kevin Spacey singing Bobby Darin), overall this collection is well worth the ticket price.