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

Categories: Lists
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3. Public Enemy, First Avenue, 12/12/88
In a time before Chuck D became the hip-hop guy every NPR listener could quote, Public Enemy was the band that was scary. Hip hop went from the cartoony plumage of Grandmaster Flash to the harder attitudes of Ice-T and PE. Walking into their first show felt dangerous -- at least from my perspective as gothy teenager from Fridley. It felt like a moment where everything changed. Punk rock wasn't dangerous anymore, but this was. With Griff and the hard-stepping of the Nation of Islam soldiers, Chuck D and Flavor Flav stepped so hard that it was bouncing Terminator X's turntables. It was a bit like losing your virginity, only without sex and a lot more references to Louis Farrakhan. --Chris Strouth
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2. Prince, First Avenue, 7/07/07
Needless to say, there are countless Prince shows at First Ave that could fit in this slot. Take your pick from the run of mid-'80s blowouts, the filming of Purple Rain, the exploration of Sign O' the Times, and so forth. This was the most surprising show of them all. On the morning of 7/7/07, my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I rolled out of bed and got hastily dressed. It was Prince day. People had been sleeping on the sidewalks surrounding First Avenue since the night before, and I was worried I wouldn't get there in time. After an eight-hour wait I had both a wristband and a ticket.  
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Another eight-hour wait later that night proved that it was worth everything to see Prince onstage in his second home again. It came along with a performance in Macy's and at Target Center. Sheila E and Wendy showed up, among other special guests, and it took the Minneapolis police to shut down the show around 4 a.m. --Stacy Schwartz
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1. Joe Cocker, the Depot, 4/03/70
Nothing feels as sweet as the first time. According to the April 4, 1970, edition of the Minneapolis Tribune, "not since the truck drivers' strike of 1934 is it likely that there has been such excitement, such chaos, such congestion, such noise just off Hennepin Av. as there was Friday night." The account, which later calls the space Fillmore Upper Midwest, says that carpeting and other interior decorations weren't yet installed, but the old bus station was packed with sun-tanned men and women wearing expensive hippie garb by the time Cocker hit the stage just after 8 p.m. The $10 tables were full, the $4 standing room was reserved for those willing fight for it, and the initial stocking of booze was used up by showtime. A long-haired Cocker worked hard on a stage filled with 40 people, "singing like a black man" and dancing "like a spastic," and the two sets had the feel of a circus sideshow. From day one, this club had its magnetic persona established. --Reed Fischer  

What was your favorite show at First Avenue? Write us, and send photos to gimmenoise@citypages.com and we'll include you in a list of readers' picks on the blog next week.

Related:
First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #20-11
First Avenue's 20 best concerts: Readers' picks
First Avenue's 40 years of rock 'n' roll
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list

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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."

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.

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.

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