I’m a Boomer, old enough that I saw the Stones tour Exile On Main Street. We were in someone’s mother’s Chevy, cruising down Sherbrooke to the Forum for the show, passing a joint between cars. Someone dropped it, and, without a beat, the car behind slowed down, opened a door and scooped it up. Shortly after, my buddy who was driving cruised over a traffic barrier and tore the transmission out. We left the car and hoofed it to the Forum.
The best show I’ve ever seen, however, was Elton John, at the old Pacific Coliseum in 1977. The show was 3 hours long, he took one short break, he never let up the energy and he did 8 completely outrageous costume changes. That was the best value for money I’ve ever had at a show.
The one I remember best (or don’t remember) was Pink Floyd’s Animals tour. I was living out in the Eastern Townships and getting around on a borrowed dirtbike. No helmet. No license. No insurance. Wasn’t even my bike. Quebec was kind of lawless back then.
I was buzzing around town getting supplies for the concert. Wineskins (check). Red wine (check) rye whiskey (to make Caribou – check). I had gotten as far as the wineskins (from the camping store) and I was zipping up the hill (this was in downtown Sherbrooke) in the centre of town when a big old green Lincoln made a sudden right turn out of the wrong lane and ran me over.
I went down, the bike went down, the footpeg tore a hole in my ankle and the car screeched to a halt. The driver, an elderly French Canadian, was shocked and horrified. I could see, past his worry about my condition, his worry about his culpability (and insurance).
I got up, dusted myself off and picked up the bike. It was fine (they always are after an accident, if you live, you can drive yourself to the hospital). My ankle was bleeding but not broken. Our interaction was wordless. He looked at my ankle and the bike and reached for his wallet. I looked in, saw two hundreds and took one.
I rode to emergency on the bike, got the ankle cleaned out (the detritus from road accidents left in wounds is called “roadus”), disinfected and bandaged and got a prescription for some high test pain relievers (Demerol, if I recall, and I don’t).
We rode into the concert in Montreal (this time at the Big O), on my friend’s café racer, with me riding pillion. Wineskins full of Caribou (red wine and rye whiskey) flapping off our shoulders in the breeze. I have a photo of me somewhere, sitting on the grass surrounding the Olympic Stadium, rolling a joint and smiling for the camera. I literally don’t remember that moment.
I do remember most of the concert though. The first act was Animals, and they had the balloons, all of them, especially the pig. I had come for the second act though, which was a reprise of Wish You Were Here, their previous album. The predominantly Francophone audience was enthusiastic, shouting “hostie!” in unison.
I saw Dylan 3 times, when he was good, awful and slightly better. The good was the Rolling Thunder Revue in Montreal in 1975, when he brought a circus of friends on tour. The awful was at Maple Leaf Gardens in the mid-80s, when he toured with Joni Mitchell. It’s the only concert I’ve seen there and the sound was uniquely terrible, like nails on a blackboard. Even Joni’s incomparable voice was compromised.Couple that with the fact Dylan was at his hoarse, mumbling worst that year, and the only good memory I have of that show is the t-shirt.
The slightly better was the last show I’ve been to, when Bob played the Air Canada Centre in the late 90s. I was an executive by then, peak earning years. We went to Harbour 60 for $50 steaks before the show. We sat in seats on the floor, right at the sweet spot next to the mixing board. I actually lit and smoked a joint, but no one in the grey haired crowd was doing blunts. We got up and danced to Like A Rolling Stone (to which Bob actually devoted some effort and grace), but that was about it. I haven’t been to a rock show since.