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Dude, you saw Zeppelin!

October 26, 2011
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A few days ago, I was asked the following question: 'What's the best concert you've ever seen?'

My gut response was, 'Paul McCartney, Boston 2002 and again in 2005.' Those were absolutely incredible concerts. When he first appears on stage, it hits you: There he is. He's real. It's the actual guy. He's not a video or a hologram - it's Paul. For two hours and 45 minutes, you get the show of your life with each song played and sung as if his life depended on it.

Add to that the man who wrote or co-wrote those amazing songs is standing there in front of you and it's kind of hard to beat.

I started to think about other shows. U2 in 1985, The Grateful Dead at UMO in 1983, Phish at Loring AFB, Brian Wilson performing the legendary 'lost' Beach Boys album 'SMiLE' in 2004, The Who, The Kinks, Elvis Costello how could I leave those out? Why does there have to be a 'best show ever?' It's clearly an unfair question to begin with.

Wait, I might have an answer. July 13, 1985 - Live Aid. But does that count? Dozens of big names took the stage at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on that blisteringly hot Saturday, but it WAS one concert.

There will probably never be another concert to match Live Aid for sheer greatness. All the criteria that make for a successful benefit show were met and surpassed: cause, star power and locations (Philly and London). For the most part, it did its job: raising money for African famine relief (though we later found out that millions of dollars were still tied up in red tape years after the event), and nearly every big name who mattered in 1985 showed up to play before an estimated global television audience of 1.9 billion people.

For most of the day, I was approximately 60 feet from the stage and vividly recall the great, the decent and the crappy. Great: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Madonna, Mick Jagger & Tina Turner. Decent: The Pretenders, Duran Duran, Judas Priest, The Cars. Painfully Crappy: Bob Dylan with Keith Richards and Ron Wood (love em, but they should have stayed home that day) and some group calling themselves Led Zeppelin.

They shouldn't have done it. This was Zeppelin's first appearance since disbanding in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham. In fairness to the band, they were pressured into doing the show by Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof and had very little time to rehearse. It was the rock equivalent of dredging The Titanic to the surface, patching the hole with a blue Marden's tarp and allowing passengers to board again. They were very rusty. Jimmy Page looked bad, Robert Plant sounded hoarse and John Paul Jones was playing keyboards instead of bass. And then we noticed the man behind the drums - Phil Collins.

When Phil Collins's face appeared on the huge Diamond Vision screen on the side of the stage, a stranger turned to me and said, 'What the hell?!' I knew what he meant. I mean no disrespect to Phil. I like him with Genesis, and some of his early solo material is fine, but Led Zeppelin? I'm sorry, but that puts a bustle in my hedgerow. Accompanying Collins on a second kit was Tony Thompson from Power Station (remember them?).

When a 4 DVD box set of Live Aid highlights was released in 2004, Led Zeppelin's set was glaringly absent at the request of the band.

Despite the failure of Zep's well-intentioned reunion, as a whole Live Aid was tough to beat. When I mentioned it as a possible answer to the 'best ever' question, the person asking proclaimed 'Dude, you saw Zeppelin!' Not really, no. But some of our Facebook friends on the Mike and Mike page did see Zep in their prime. I asked, 'What's the best concert you've ever seen?' and was delighted to read their responses.

Denise Gault: I can only pick one? I grew up in L.A. in the 60s & 70s, so I saw a LOT of concerts. Let's see ... Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, David Bowie, Traffic, Three Dog Night, the Stones, Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues and too many others to remember. Who should I pick? I was a LUCKY kid to grow up when and where I did!

Monica Gray: The Pixies! Lowell, Massachusetts - they had reunited for a tour, people of all ages were at this concert and it was so wonderful to see how many different generations enjoyed their music and to see this band back together.

James Mooney: John Cougar Mellencamp - Scarecrow Tour in Portland, (mid '80s). Great show ... best part was, we went to the Ground Round after [the show], and about a half hour after we got there, he walked in with his entourage, sat down right next to us, chain smoking cigs, and asking us how we liked the show.

Tammy Michaels: The best would have to be the Melissa Etheridge concert at the Waterfront on Saturday, July 23, 2011. I had a goal when going to this concert knowing that she is a six-year breast cancer survivor. Being one of the photographers of The Bare Truth Project, I had a special gift for her: one of our shirts we give our models. I was right next to the stage and held it up when she sang "I Run For Life," and she came up and accepted our gift. When I looked to my left, one of my survivors was there to witness such an exciting moment. She is amazing!

Samuel Clay: I went to see the Bill Gaither Vocal band about a year and a half ago. I met David Phelps and got his signature. There were other great bands, too - bands like The Isaacs - and it was so fun! Mark Lowry was funny, and the music was great!

Rick Messana: Led Zepplin, Boston Garden 1969ish. It was my first rock concert ever. Two years later I saw them again, same venue, second row front. Jimmy Page looked right at me during "No Quarter." I was deaf for a week.

Rena Theriault Blanchard: B.B. King at the Bangor waterfront this year! My 14-year-old son's idol is B.B., so for his birthday my husband and I surprised him with sixth row tix to the concert. Mark Miller [Maine guitarist and opening act] gives Zach guitar lessons. Mark told Zach to bring his Gibson Les Paul electric guitar and he might be able to get B.B. to sign it. Zach and I approached the gate with guitar in hand and we explained to security why we had the guitar with us. They pulled us to the side and a man came out with VIP all access passes for us! After the show, we got to board B.B.'s tour bus and go all the way to the back where B.B.'s bedroom is. We proceeded to sit on B.B.'s bed (B.B. in an easy chair) and talk with him for about 20 minutes! I thought my son was gonna have a heart attack! B.B. signed Zach's guitar and posed with Zach so I could take a pic of them together! This was a night my son and I will share the memory of FOREVER! Zach cherishes his guitar and guards it like a hawk. B.B. King is awesome! Not only is he touring at 86, he is still taking the time to connect with his fans on a personal level!

Susan Jonason: Phish - The Great Went, Loring AFB in Limestone (Aug. 16, 1997). We had back stage passes, access to the stage and beer tent and free reign throughout the festival grounds. I still have my tie-dyed T-shirt that Trey and Mike signed. (All of this because I carried a music stand out on stage as part of the "crew.")

Aaron Larson: Rush on April 22 of this year, at The First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. My brother and I drove over 10 hours to go see it, along with a sellout crowd of 11,000-plus other people. The energy was awesome and the effort and fun that the band puts into their shows is absolutely incredible. Seeing them is better than seeing bands half their age.

Jodi Renshaw: The BEST concert I have ever been to (hands down) was when the Grateful Dead played Foxboro in 1990. I was only 17 and attended with my then boyfriend, now husband. It would be the last time that the Dead played Foxboro, as the stadium could not hold the rush of people that pushed through the gates ... and the first time I had ever seen them live. And the whole experience blew my mind! Everyone treating one another with kindness, enjoying one another's company, dancing with strangers ... it was wonderful. Certainly the Dead Head crowd has gotten a bad rap in the past ... but they introduced me to a feeling of community that I had never felt before. And I was drug free. Just a natural high that I will never forget! :) Then Jerry died :(

Zachary Robbins: Sir Paul McCartney, 2002 Hartford, Conn. Other than the fact that his stage show was a combo of Cirque de Soleil and he played all the favorites, there was an amazing moment when the band left the stage and he played some solo work. The tearjerker moment was when he pulled out a ukulele that George had given him. He told a story of how Harrison was always noodling on the uke and how he missed him every day. He then played "Something" on said uke while a montage played on the big screens of (George and Paul) over the years. You know it's a real connection moment when after the song there was a brief period of silence and the crowd then lost their minds. Also, he's the friggin' WALRUS and I got to see him!

Mike J. Curtis: Jimi Hendrix, Sicks Stadium, Seattle, July 26, 1970. Here's why it was the best: Sick's Stadium was an outdoor ball park and it was raining like crazy. I and about a hundred others didn't have the price to get in. I spent mine two weeks before at Janis Joplin, same venue. As Jimi came on the rain turned into a downpour and most of the stadium emptied before Jimi played a note. Jimi came out from under the tarp and saw us all standing in the rain along the hill behind the stadium. He waved his arm beckoning us to come into the show! We all ran down the hill, into the entrance and I got right up to the stage actually touching it as Jimi played. FREE JIMI HENDRIX concert! I also just found out that there is a recording of that whole show on the internet now! Yay!

Emily Stoddard Burnham: I saw the Arcade Fire in Central Park in 2005. It was a year after "Funeral" came out, and they were just hitting their stride as one of the most important bands of the past decade. It was during the CMJ Music Marathon, and I was there with WMEB 91.9 at UMaine. They had a drawing for 200 tickets to the show for CMJ badge holder, and miraculously, myself and the two people I was with were drawn! The show was incredible; such energy and joy and excitement. I'm also probably Bangor's biggest David Bowie fan, and it was the same week that the Arcade Fire played with Bowie during the Fashion Rocks concert. I had a sneaking hope that they might bring out Bowie for a few songs, and lo and behold, they did. I flew to the stage on rock n' roll angel wings, and was maybe 15 feet from my idol. They played "Queen Bitch" by Bowie and "Wake Up" by the Arcade Fire, and it was one of the best 10 minutes of my life.

Julie Kraiterman Steele: I would have to say that the absolute best concert was Jimmy Buffett in 1996, this was the year my parents went with us and the same year my father passed away (15 years ago today).

Joy Sinclair: Silverchair, front row (mashed) at Shephards Bush Empire in London. Friday, June 13, 2003. AMAZING. It was the best because a) it was SILVERCHAIR and b) it was London. Duh! ;)

Brad Coffey: U2 at RFK during the Joshua Tree tour. I suspect U2 is always amazing, but this was my first really big concert. When they come out to Where the Streets Have No Name, the atmosphere was amazing. They ended with 40, and the crowd continued to sing for 15 minutes after the band was completely done. 70,000 or so people continued singing even as we left the stadium in DC. Unforgettable show.

Mike Dow is part of 'The Mike and Mike Show' airing each morning on Kiss 94.5. Check him out at and

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