Live concerts are dead, but their memories live on

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Scott Saalman gets a bird's-eye view of U2's Joshua Tree tour during the band's stop in Louisville in 2017.

Guest Columnist

I knew this pandemic thing was serious stuff when, last month, the Rolling Stones postponed their 2020 tour.

I mean Mick and the boys – especially Keith – likely eat COVID-19 for breakfast. Nothing can kill these guys. Apparently, the postponement was for the safety of us fans.

Here in the Great Global Pause, live concerts are dead—and will be for an unforeseeable period of time. To at least keep our concert memories alive, I asked others to share their favorite concert experiences.

Marc Steczyk texted about his favorite concert with The Rolling Stones: “I drove to New York City on a whim to see them at Madison Square Garden during the (1998) Bridges to Babylon tour. That was pretty amazing.”

Kurt Vonderheide informed me that, during his courtship with then girlfriend (now wife) Selena, he surprised her with Eric Clapton tickets. Selena loved Clapton. Excitedly, they drove to Cincinnati for the show. Sadly, arriving, they learned the concert actually happened the night before. “The rest of the night was spent in silence,” he recalled.

The following concert memories were shared via Facebook.

Daniel Ross: U2's Joshua Tree 2017 tour stop at Louisville’s Cardinals (football) stadium. Dave Weatherwax and I stood for hours with strangers pushed up against each other. However, even as an introvert, the power of the music and the depth of the music and lyrics combined with that powerful/spiritual nature of the Joshua Tree album being played in full was enough to overcome all hang-ups I had about the proximity of strangers. It felt like community, it felt like nourishment for my SOUL.

Emi Donato: The most impressionable concert on my young mind was the Prince 1999 concert. I went with my best friend, we were junior high punk rock wannabes. People were wearing zoot suits, Sunday attire, fancy hats, and wingtip shoes. The energy was high & electric! It was so easy to “get it on,” even for a couple of naive junior-high girls. The highlight of the show was the finale when a brass bed with purple satin sheets popped up on the highest tier of the stage. Prince seductively sang “International Lover” as he was grinding the bed. My eyes widened, my jaw dropped, and my innocence was lost as he provocatively seduced my senses.

Joe Dedman: Jimmy Buffett (of course). 1985, I think. Mesker Amphitheater in Evansville. Electricity goes out halfway thru. Buffett takes an intermission and then finishes his set acoustically. That’s when I knew how much he appreciates his fans.

Kate Abshier: 1999. Phish with guest star Phil Lesh. A surreal experience watching them jump on trampolines singing “Bouncing Around the Room” along with thousands of people under the San Francisco sky.

Kathy Smith: My first concert was in 1973, Chuck Berry. My girlfriends, Annette, Nancy, Kerry and I went to Toledo or Bowling Green and Annette’s mom drove. A few of us were allowed to get up on the stage with Chuck! I touched him and his guitar!

Lesli Fella: My first-ever concert – Rick Springfield. As a second-grader in the early ‘80s, my mom took me and my friend. We screamed and swooned; screamed and swooned some more. It felt as if he was singing “Jessie’s Girl” directly at us.

Heath Kluemper: New Found Glory at The Pageant in STL in ’09. They’d been my favorite band since I was a pre-teen, and I’d seen ‘em dozens of times, but somehow on that night I convinced them to let me on stage and got to play guitar for a few songs with them. A life-affirming moment for sure.

Ray Major: Flatt and Scruggs at Beanblossom in 1968. Down home, but high powered compared to the old farmer-fiddle player I stacked hay for. It was the first place my dad let me drive by myself, about 100 miles. Probably would have not learned to play music if I had not seen them.

Angela Himsel: Leonard Cohen when he performed in NYC when he was in his late 70s. His voice wasn’t great, but he had such stage presence, and as he sang, I heard it as if it was exactly the same as when I listened to his tape cassettes in college.

Tonya Heim: (During an Arlo Guthrie concert in the early ‘70s) a young girl in short shorts and a tank top came bopping onto the stage with her pursue slung over her shoulder. She dropped her purse at the foot of the microphone and belted out a song. I had never heard of her, but her voice blew me away: Linda Ronstadt.

John Gibson: Talking Heads in Carbondale, IL, 1982. The expanded band was so intense and so funky, David Byrne was a monster, and the crowd was a sea of bobbing heads. Everybody was dancing. At one point, Byrne climbed up a tall stack of PA speakers, got to the top, looked around a bit, and started dancing.

Delaney Saalman: Brian Wilson playing the entire Pet Sounds album. Cried the entire show.

John Kahle: The Who. 11/30/75. Bloomington. Second row. Moon stood on drums. Townshend smashed his guitar. Ears rang for two days.

Charles Bauer: 7/7/84. Van Halen. Roberts Stadium. 1st concert ever! The ORIGINAL lineup for one of the final times. I could go on (about that night), but I assume you write a PG column.

More to come. Email me your concert stories.

Contact Scott Saalman at

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