First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

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6. The Jayhawks, First Avenue, 7/7-8-9/95
At the height of summer, and six months after the release of Tomorrow the Green Grass, the Jayhawks returned to First Avenue for three consecutive nights. There's almost nothing like experiencing a packed Mainroom with like-minded music lovers on a sizzling summer night. The band (augmented by fiddler Mike "Razz" Russell) shared the songs from their (at this point) four-album catalog and exciting covers that displayed their influences. Just a few months later, Mark Olson left the band, marking an end to this lineup on the First Avenue stage for 15 full years. The classic lineup triumphantly brought it all back home for another three-night stand in the summer of 2010. --Steve Cohen
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5. U2, First Avenue, 2/21/82
In a smaller venue, the young and spiritually charged rising rock stars U2 were mixed with a devoted audience that, even then, knew every word to every song. As Bono struggled with the words to a "Southern Man" encore, he brought up a member of the audience to help him with the performance. This was Bono before the bug shades, this was Edge debating the relationship between faith and the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and this was way before multimillion-dollar Pop Mart stage setups. This was a simple Irish band, up close and personal with its fan base; they would never be this intimate and vulnerable again. The electricity of this night will never be matched again as U2 moved on to bigger venues over the years. --Lars Larson
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4. Radiohead, First Avenue, 4/03/96
Many Radiohead devotees have already spoken out about the legendary show the band put on the year prior to this gig (6/04/95, although my ticket stub says 6/11/95). In both cases, a brash young folk singer named David Gray was the opening act, and both shows were examples of the band right before meeting people became so easy. Having attended both, I think the 1996 concert had more of a feel for where the band would end up on OK Computer. For Bends purists, this would be a nightmare. But those of us looking for the band to distance itself from the Buzz Bin, hearing wild renditions of songs like "Ripcord" that would soon go in the vault forever was only the tip of those Kid A icebergs. Plus, they did an in-store signing at Let It Be Records after the concert. --Reed Fischer 
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18 comments
Mark B
Mark B

Obviously "top 20" being a matter of taste -- some of my faves:  New Order (early 80's), the Cure (~1983), Teenage Fanclub (mid 90s), Ride with Lush, Charlatans with Dandy Warhols (!!), Happy Mondays, Prince, Jesse Johnson (remember him?), Air, Paul Weller.   Also saw a couple listed in the article -- fave was early U2 gig -- got pictures of that one.

Yeah, First Ave.'s the place to be before the bands get big and stadium sized (or fade away).  Lots of great shows and memories (hazy though they may be).

Makes sense
Makes sense

Ghostland Observatory, 11/10.  The room seemed to levitate during Kick Clap Speaker.  

Raymond Albright
Raymond Albright

Four better concerts than any mentioned above:

Prince & the Time - "Dirty Mind" had just been released and Prince was in his full trenchcoat and thigh-high stockings for the whole show - unbelievable at the time for a Black performer to look and perform like he did.

Thomas Dolby - early '80's after "Golden Age of Wireless" had been released - he did all the songs - unforgettable.

Metric - "Fantasies" release tour - Emily Haines singing and dancing for almost two hours - incredible entertainment.

The Crystal Method - just about two years ago on a Sunday night - if techno was God, I saw God that night - truly the best concert I've ever seen at First Avenue.

Dirkherb
Dirkherb

The Samples, David Byrne and Golden Smog are among my favorites.

Mike Riehle
Mike Riehle

I was busy being born the day the #1 show went down, but for my money, Nine Inch Nails w/ Meat Beat Manifesto more than made up for it.

Hank Fralee
Hank Fralee

"Hip-hop went from the cartoony plumage of Grandmaster Flash to the hardcore gangster attitude of Ice-T and PE."

just an awful sentence. PE, hardcore gangsta?

"With Griff and the hard-stepping of the Nation of Islam soldiers, Chuck D and Flavor Flav stepping so hard that it was bouncing Terminator X's turntables. "

Nation of Islam soldiers? The Security of the First World/S1Ws who were Fruit of Islam

heyslackass
heyslackass

To try to limit it to twenty shows is impossible. In my own history I could name 20 shows I thought were better. Pearl Jam, Afghan Whigs, Soul Asylum, Big Country, Sunny Day Real Estate, Sugar, Bob Mould, The Cult,The Cramps,Swervedriver,Neds atomic dustbin,Ice t with body count,808 state,Live for a Rev 104 show. Buffalo Tom when Grant hart joined them and wouldn't leave. The Twilight Sad.ETC. The place is such a great venue that any night  you could walk in catch a band that caputures the moment of where they are and just blows the roof of the dump. And that's magic of First Ave.

Nomadyroc
Nomadyroc

 Yeah pretty predictable, and a bit homer, but I sill love ya. Phish & Widespread Panic are still two of the biggest & best acts in live music, and both had a handfull of shows at my favorite venue. Didnt want to loose your indie cred?????????

Zinovy
Zinovy

fIREHOSE w/ The Feelies in 1990 or 91.  The Feelies were headlining.  There was some spat going on between the two bands and fIREHOSE, already known for their great live shows, kicked it up a notch, trying to bury The Feelies.   Watt broke 2 bass strings because he was playing with such fire...and yes, The Feelies couldn't live up.

Also, Soul Asylum w/ Arcwelder, July 3rd, 1990 was great tool

Russneis
Russneis

Foo fighters somewhat secret show before the one by one album was great for a big time rock band to play in a small venue

Zinovy
Zinovy

Wilco 6/29/01 & 6/30/01.   These were special shows for a couple of reasons.  Wilco wasn't on tour. They just played these two shows and one at Summerfest in Milwaukee.  Weeks prior to the show, Tweedy told fans to download the un-released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and judging by the crowd singing every word to the YHF songs, the crowd followed Tweedy's instructions.  Also, because they were not on tour, these shows had a unusual looseness to them.  These were also Jay Bennett's last shows with the band and his was kicked out after their next show in Milwaukee.  Footage of these shows can be seen in the film, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart."

Danny
Danny

those were great shows indeed (although not my all-time favorite Wilco shows at First Ave).

just fwiw, only footage of the second night appears in IATTBYH

Zinovy
Zinovy

 I actually liked the Summerteeth shows better, but the 01 shows were memorable for the reasons I mentioned.

buggaboo
buggaboo

It seems like a pretty predictable list, and maybe that's just the way it goes. But with few exceptions, it's "Before they were big, they played at First Ave!"

Gerbilbazooka
Gerbilbazooka

Was not at any of those but I will say that the Ting Tings show 2 weeks ago was freaking awesome!

Machelle Moen
Machelle Moen

I enjoyed reading about first ave.'s past it is great

PutSomeRanchOnIt
PutSomeRanchOnIt

"Clear the way for the S - the S1Ws!"

PE were still fucking awesome when I saw them in 1999 at First Ave.

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