Ringing Ears, Smoke Machines, and Drum Solos

Do you remember you first concert? I do. It was a 1977 show by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia at the Calderone Theater on Long Island. This was the band’s legendary Ra tour, featuring a 20 foot gold Sphinx and lots of smoke and lasers. The highlight was Mr. Rundgren playing a guitar solo on top of a giant steel pyramid —and then tumbling through the air and landing on stage. It was awesome —and thanks to YouTube you can get a taste of what it was like.

It all came rushing back when I took my 13-year-old son Zack to his first concert Friday night. We went to see The Decemberists play at the Amherst College gym. Since it was general admission I led him to a spot against the barrier in front of the stage and imparted a little advice from the old man: “At a show like this you get right up front.”

Despite the smelly and annoying guy next to him, an atrocious opening act, and a long stretch of time on his feet he had a great time. I’ve seen enough concerts from Row Y or Section 301 to know that there is absolutely nothing like standing right in front of the band you’ve spent so many hours listening to on your iPod —or your turntable.

There were no pyramids or laser shooting Sphinxes but The Decemberists rock out live; they opened with the same song seen in this video from a performance in Austin last month.

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