1. Rick Springfield, Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI, July 1983
In my youth, the brilliance of the high school sophomore mind was embodied in a friend's suggestion that we go see Rick Springfield at Milwaukee’s Summerfest because, as he reasoned, the place will be swarming with randy teenage girls. And damned if he wasn’t absolutely right. The teenage girl to teenage boy ratio was probably 10:1. I was surrounded by thousands of shrieking, delirious girls. Despite this numerical advantage, we still failed to get any action and instead ended up going home to play Dungeons and Dragons all night (which is on a whole other ‘most embarrassing’ list). Talk about misspent youth.
2. Dan Fogelberg, Alpine Valley, WI, June 1984
Of course, once I had a girlfriend, I would do anything in my teenage randiness to please her, including going to see Dan Fogelberg at Alpine Valley. For those who don’t remember him, Dan Fogelberg was a syrupy balladeer who sang maudlin songs about lost love like Same Auld Lang Syne and Leader of the Band, now playing in an elevator near you. I still cannot hear these songs without recalling cheap perfume and Asti Spumante in the backseat of my girlfriend’s Pontiac Bonneville in some leafy Milwaukee park.
DF started his career doing semi-decent jazzy collaborations with flutist Tim Weisberg and this concert would actually have received a mixed review on MV&R, had there been blogs back then, because the second set was a collection of bluegrass tunes that was both surprising and really well done. Also, no matter who is performing, it’s tough to beat sitting on a blanket under the stars on a warm summer night at Alpine Valley.
3. Quiet Riot, Milwaukee Auditorium, WI, 1983
The complete bill was Quiet Riot and Saga. Quiet Riot’s hit “Come on Feel the Noise” was number one at the time, and had not yet becoming utterly unlistenable, but it was quickly apparent to me that they would be a one-hit wonder (though a smaller hit “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” was recently used as the opening song to the acclaimed movie “The Wrestler”). I also remember this as being perhaps the loudest concert that I ever attended, followed closely by AC/DC on the Decibel Scale on their Back in Black tour. Overall, this show was not worth the admission.
Also, check out "On the Loose" by Saga for a good example of everything that was cheesily good and cheesily bad about MTV’s early days.
4. George Michael, Alpine Valley, WI, September 1988
Another example of what guys will do for their girlfriends. I am actually of two minds regarding George Michael as a musical artist, putting aside all the tawdry tabloid stories regarding his drug abuse and unsavory sexual habits. I think George Michael is a fantastically underrated songwriter by music critics. Yet I never like the production of his songs. Tunes like Faith, Kissing a Fool, One More Try, Hand to Mouth are all great songs but sound like they’re being played on a toy music box with no bass. A real artist should take a second look and consider re-recording one or two.
Nevertheless, this concert makes the list mainly because of the performance. This was George Michael’s Faith tour, his first after leaving Wham! The entire concert, and I mean all of it, was George Michael in the spotlight with the band left behind him literally playing in his reflected shadow. It was a tour de force of unrestrained ego that left me feeling a little queasy in the end.
5. Ted Nugent, Honolulu NBC Arena, HI, Summer 1983
This one is embarrassing as much as for what Ted Nugent has become (everything I loathe) as for the very limited musical value involved. Ted Nugent is now a complete arse, a tool, a spokesperson for the NRA who barely avoids spewing a racist paranoid screed whenever he opens his mouth – which is every chance he gets. Whenever he pops up, I can’t hit the mute fast enough.
I will have to confess that this concert was some value for the money, with some guy near the front spitting on Ted during “Cat Scratch Fever” prompting him to dive headfirst into the crowd (in the middle of the song) and inciting a mini-brawl with huge Hawaiian bouncers wading into the crowd to pluck Ted out and toss him back on the stage still enraged. (Of course, I can appreciate the spitter’s perspective far more now.) Oh, and that’s not even mentioning the fireworks under my chair. Even the worst concerts can give you good stories.
6. Honorable mention: Whitney Houston, St. Louis Amphitheater, Summer 1986.
Great voice, horrible songs.