First Avenue's 20 best concerts: The complete list

Categories: Lists
8. The Fugees/ The Roots/ Goodie Mob, First Avenue, 11/96
Three of the era's biggest acts hit the road on a small club tour to rave reviews, but First Avenue was the high point as each crew wanted to out-rock each other in the house that Prince built. The Fugees headlined, and it just as "Killing Me Softly" was about to repeat on pop radio. This was Lauryn Hill at her best. Her voice boomed off the walls as Wyclef Jean cemented himself as a true performer and, oh yeah, Pras was in there somewhere. The Roots were on-point creatively, and fresh with their live band and impromptu jam session. Black Thought did covers of Wu-Tang, and impersonated each member perfectly. You swore he was magically channeling Ghostface. But no doubt this new group from Atlanta had everyone talking, Goodie Mob stole the show with a high-energy charismatic performance. Cee-Lo rapping his full verse on "Goodie Bag" brought the house down. People who were in attendance knew this was a special night and knew something like this would never happen again as Khujo starting throwing buckets of fried chicken into the audience as an encore, we were all celebrating this golden show during this golden era of hip-hop. -Lars Larson
7. Rhymesayers Entertainment 10th Anniversary Show, First Avenue, 7/22/05
Like an early Motown Records revue, not one group was the headliner. Instead, it was the whole label, or in this case, a whole city and movement. Rhymesayers celebrating their 10th anniversary was a "we arrived"-type moment and the crowd knew it as well. From the early days in the Entry to cats, vans, bags across the country, it was time to cut the cake and drop the balloons. The venue was packed to the doors and stifling hot. But the fire came from the stage as the show was fast paced with no downtime or lull and every act from Atmosphere to Musab brought its A game with short, powerful sets. Los Nativos charged the crowd in full headdress and war paint attire and new label mates P.O.S and Mac Lethal proved they belonged. Everyone got stage time, even a real MF Doom managed to show up, and you know it's a special night when that happens. -Lars Larson
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, theJayhawks 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 had left the band, marking an end to this lineup on the First Avenue stage for 15 full years. The classic line-up triumphantly brought it all back home for another three night stand in the summer of 2010. -Steve Cohen

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