Best San Diego jams since Ritchie Valens

Beatles, Doors, Pink Floyd, the Who, Grateful Dead, and many more

Both shows at the San Diego Arena on Eighth and Harbor Drive (aka Glacier Garden skating rink) for Presley's first full-length California concerts were sold out and police presence was heavy. "Some girls broke into the bathroom of Elvis's dressing room and stole the toilet seat," recalled KCBQ disc jockey Don Howard in a 1979 interview. "His Cadillac was covered with obscene messages, and two sailors were arrested for masturbating during the show from watching the antics.... After the concert, the police arrested 12 girls running nude through the halls of the El Cortez Hotel, looking for Elvis.

"Ticket sales for the two 1956 concerts (with his new backing band the Jordanaires) reportedly totaled $17,250, with 11,250 fans attending. The day after the second San Diego date -- April 6 -- Presley signed a seven-year movie deal with Paramount. Three weeks later, "Heartbreak Hotel" hit number one. When Presley was scheduled to return to the Arena June 6, Mayor Charles Dail brought a resolution before the city council attempting (but failing) to ban Presley from performing in the city. Police Chief Adam Elmer Jansen -- the city's longest-serving chief, at 14 years -- told the San Diego Union, "If he puts on the same kind of show that he did last April, I'll arrest him for disorderly conduct...I've had enough complaints from parents to assure me that twerp is not doing the kids any good."

Ritchie Valens: 9-58, Clairemont High School

Ritchie Valens had two hits on the charts -- "La Bamba" and "Donna" -- when longtime local DJ Harry "Happy Hare" Martin persuaded him to perform at the 1958 opening of Clairemont High School. "I was asked by the principal to put on a show to promote school spirit," Martin told Kicks magazine two decades later. "In my naïveté, I just asked him to come down from L.A. and sing in the schoolyard.

"It was a typical hot September day when he performed for an hour at noon, on hot clay, with absolutely no grass around." After the show, "I took him to the airport and thanked him, and within a few months Ritchie was dead." Valens perished in the same February 1959 plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.

Sonny and Cher: 7-21-65, Power House

When the duo performed the first of two nights at El Cajon's Power House (1550 North Magnolia Avenue), local radio was just beginning to play their single "I Got You, Babe," and they'd just made their first TV appearance on June 12 on American Bandstand. In a venue seating no more than 500 people, they performed the song, as well as several others from their upcoming debut album Look at Us (to be released that August). The majority of the set was made up of cover songs like "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" (the Miracles), "Then He Kissed Me" (written by Phil Spector for the Crystals), and "Unchained Melody" (by North and Zaret, most famously recorded by the Righteous Brothers).

The Power House date may have been their first performance of the Dylan song "All I Really Want to Do," which they'd just seen the Byrds perform in L.A. the previous week. Even though they knew the Byrds wanted to record it, Sonny -- who'd noted the Byrds' success redoing Dylan tunes -- convinced Cher to record the song for a solo release, and this version would hit stores first.

A week after the San Diego concerts, they were on TV again in the half-hour musical-variety show Where the Action Is, just as "I Got You Babe" closed in on Billboard's number-one chart spot, where it remained for three consecutive weeks. After an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show later in the year, they were done with small venues. Their 1-21-66 appearance at San Diego's Convention Hall (202 C Street, downtown) reportedly sold out the same midsize room the Rolling Stones had barely filled the previous month (12-5-65, though that was an afternoon show).

The Beatles: 8-28-65, Balboa Stadium

For the Beatles' one and only local appearance, at Balboa Stadium, radio station KCBQ declared that Saturday "Beatle Day" and gave out pins saying so to attendees. Four local teenagers won a contest to present ceremonial keys to the city to the band at an afternoon press conference. Area DJ "Happy Hare" (aka Harry Martin) recalls that "Joan Baez was going to visit John Lennon [backstage], and she was caught up in the human riptide, because she was on the outside of the fence with all the kids. I literally lifted her up and pushed her over the fence. She eventually got backstage, but she came close to being crushed to death."

Local headlines the next day read "Beatles Quip at a Fast Clip" and "Ecstasy and Emotion: Beatles and Beatlemania Erupt." The band played around 40 minutes, with some of the show surreptitiously recorded by KGTV chief photographer Lee Louis, who smuggled in a 16mm film camera (a portion of his footage is posted on YouTube). Around 28,000 tickets were printed, priced at $3.50 and $5.50, though only about 18,000 were sold. The Beatles were reportedly paid $50,000, while promoters said their cut was around $6000.

The Doors: 7-8-67, Balboa Stadium

The Doors' debut album was still new when former Clairemont Longfellow Elementary School student Jim Morrison appeared with the band in his former hometown for the first time. His parents lived in Coronado, his father having just risen to the rank of rear admiral. "North County band the Lyrics, Marsha and the Esquires, and two other bands started promptly at 8:30 p.m., for over 4000 fans," reports "Crasher" columnist Josh Board. "Unfortunately, with only one album out, it was a short set, with only a handful of songs." Board points to Greg Shaw's book The Doors on the Road, which states, "...during 'Light My Fire,' two women leaped over the railing...and raced to the stage, briefly clutching Morrison's feet before being briskly escorted off by the police."

The Doors played three other San Diego concerts with Morrison; 11-4-67 and 6-29-68 at the Community Concourse and 8-22-70 at the Sports Arena (captured on the bootleg vinyl album Celebration). A 10-26-69 date at Balboa Stadium was canceled after Morrison was accused of exposing himself onstage in Miami. After Morrison died, the Doors returned to Balboa Stadium -- 8-13-72 -- for a taped performance widely circulated among Doors concert collectors under titles like Turn Me On Dead Man and Breakin' through Balboa.

The Turtles, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Stone Poneys, others: 1-13-68, Sports Arena

"Although I loved the hits of the Turtles, I took umbrage at them getting top billing over the Byrds," remembers AcousticMusicSanDiego operator Carey Driscoll of this ten-band event. Buffalo Springfield refused to leave the stage after their two allotted songs, instead playing a full 30 minutes (irking organizers). The Stone Poneys with Linda Ronstadt had Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum" on the charts and were about to put out their third album, though they would split up within two weeks of the San Diego show (one of their final concerts). The Byrds had released The Notorious Byrd Brothers just ten days before and were in the midst of lineup changes; though they'd lost David Crosby, the San Diego date was one of their first with eventual cult icon Gram Parsons.

The Turtles, touring behind their Golden Hits album, were at the peak of their powers and popularity. "One of the best sets I've seen to this day," recalls Driscoll. "Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan were energetic and entertaining.... Volman's antics included throwing his tambourine straight up into the rafters of the arena, doing spins and splits while it was up there, kicking it off the heel of his foot when it came down, grabbing it out of the air and hitting it, on the beat, in perfect timing with the next verse."

Spring Fling: 5-11-69, SDSU Aztec Bowl

The Grateful Dead headlined this event, held on Mother's Day, supported by Canned Heat, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Lee Michaels, Tarantula, and Tijuana-bred Carlos Santana. Jerry Garcia performed "Morning Dew," and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (four years before he died) sang lead on a 20-minute version of "Hard to Handle." Pigpen also fronted the band for "Good Lovin'," "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," and "Turn on Your Love Light," the last highlighted by a jam with Santana's percussionists and singer.

One of Spring Fling's promoters was future mayor Roger Hedgecock, who at the time aspired to create a local concert scene similar to San Francisco's. "There was a lot of opposition from the city," he recalled in a 1980 interview. "But all the predictions of total chaos and calamity did not come true." Hedgecock recruited the local chapter of the Hell's Angels to provide security, sealing the deal with a complimentary case of Jack Daniel's. "I got a note back from them thanking me for the case," according to Hedgecock. "They drank it all at one party." Space was provided for arts-and-crafts exhibits, as well as a booth for the city's brand-new free clinic. "Even the Black Panthers had a booth," said Hedgecock. Much of the show was aired live on KPRI-FM, and tapes of the broadcast still circulate among tie-dyed and squinty-eyed collectors.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: 5-24-69, Sports Arena

Experience bassist Noel Redding recently recalled an argument with the band's road manager upon the group's arrival in San Diego. "I think that was the first time Mitch [Mitchell, drummer] and I were put on a daily dole -- an allowance, I guess you'd call it -- that we had to use to pay for anything besides the hotel and room service. Everything used to be taken care of and paid for, but all of a sudden it was up to me to buy my own guitar strings if I needed another set!"

When the Experience hit the stage just before 10:00 p.m., a professional crew recorded the entire concert. In charge was Wally Heider, owner of a Northern California recording facility frequented by Jefferson Airplane and many others. (Heider would also be sound engineer on Hendrix Live at Fillmore East.) Running the mix from the soundboard was Abe Jacob, a San Francisco sonic engineer credited with designing the sound system for the Monterey International Pop Festival. The San Diego tapes would become widely bootlegged, as well as be excerpted for various official releases.

The 12-minute Arena version of "Red House" turns up on Hendrix in the West (Polydor/WB Reprise, 1972). A 1982 LP, Concerts, uses snippets of Hendrix's stage chatter spliced between live takes from other performances. The four-CD set Stages (Polydor/WB Reprise, 1991) has nearly the whole show, except for "Foxy Lady" (the feedback-heavy intro caused too much buzz on the master tape). A box set collection, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Universal/MCA, 2000), features the San Diego version of "Red House," along with "Purple Haze" from the same show. The Experience split up a few weeks later.

Pink Floyd: 10-17-71, Golden Hall

One of the most widely bootlegged concerts of the vinyl era, collectors of ROIOs (recordings of illegitimate origin) at www.pf-roio say of this concert:

"This is post-Syd pre-Dark Side Floyd at the height of their jamming power...Each instrument is clear and, for a change, Rick [Wright]'s organ is played up in the mix."

"Possibly the best currently available show from the fall 1971 shows...'Fat Old Sun' is the extended version, with an extra verse sung before the jam."

"PF shows off their quad sound effects. The music fades out and somebody enters through a door, walks around in the room opening doors with different sounds behind them. After a while, 'Cymbaline' fades in again."

Among the many bootlegs available of this performance, From Oblivion appears to have the closest to a complete setlist, now available on CD and frequently auctioned through eBay.

Jefferson Airplane: 9-7-72, Sports Arena

This was one of the Airplane's final concerts with their "classic" lineup, which split up two weeks later following a San Francisco date. Onstage at the Sports Arena were Paul Kantner, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, and Grace Slick. Singer Marty Balin had left the band, and drummer Joey Covington had quit in April, to be replaced by John Barbata from the Turtles. Future Jefferson Starship members David Freiberg and Papa John Creach were also on board for this show, recorded for the original Airplane's final album, Long John Silver. Poco opened, playing a short set that included "Consequently So Long," with Jorma Kaukonen guesting on the latter.

Just two weeks earlier, the band had threatened to cancel the remainder of the tour, after Slick was maced by police and Kantner slightly injured in a fight during an Akron, Ohio, concert. Someone in the band's crew allegedly called the police "pigs" from the stage, sparking the melee: the crewmember -- Jack Casady's brother Chick -- was dragged off the stage and arrested.

Tom Waits: 11-17-73, Folk Arts Rare Records

Folk Arts Rare Records was then located in Hillcrest at 3743 Fifth Avenue. "I still have a tape of the show," says owner Lou Curtiss. "He did our open-mike nights back when he was still at Hilltop High. In '73, he was a doorman at the Heritage, but when they closed, I started doing concerts at the store, and I asked him to do one of the first ones. We didn't have much space, so we were crammed to the rooftops. He was just starting to get real well known...Bob Webb, who owned the Heritage, played guitar, and Tom played guitar and piano." With only one album under his belt, Waits performed songs from his upcoming LP The Heart of Saturday Night, including "Shiver Me Timbers" and "San Diego Serenade."

Admission was "no more than $4," and Waits was paid from the proceeds of around 150 ticket sales. "He got most of the money," says Curtiss. "We weren't getting rich off these things." Waits lived locally from 1959 until 1971. Curtiss owns over 4000 reels of concert tapes, the majority recorded by himself. Having recently received $35,000 from the Grammy Foundation Grant Program to preserve some of his collection, this concert is in consideration for the planned digital archive, which will be available to researchers and interested public.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention: 8-11-74, Golden Hall

When famous former neighbor Zappa returned to San Diego with his inventive Mothers, the audience was admitted while the band performed a sound check, apparently with faulty equipment. Zappa apologized for the poor sound during "Uncle Meat," "Pygmy Twylyte," "Cosmik Debris," and "Help, I'm a Rock" before concluding, "That seems to be as good as it gets." Opening act Tom Waits then took the stage with his piano. Waits performed "San Diego Serenade," along with a few other songs and an extended monologue -- boos were heard, and one audience member yelled, "Somebody shoot that fucker." Waits showed up onstage again during Zappa's set, telling his "12-inch man" joke while the Mothers played "Ol' 55."

The Mothers that night included drummer Chester Thompson, who'd later play with Genesis. Three of the songs performed were unreleased at the time: "Inca Roads," "T'Mershi Duween," and "Dupree's Paradise." After the show -- captured on the bootleg LP Golden Debris -- the duo visited Waits's old job site, Napoleone's Pizza in National City, where Zappa was so impressed by the jukebox selection that he mentioned it glowingly in a subsequent interview. He told Zappa fanzine City of Tiny Lights (published out of North County), "It's a good thing I didn't know about that pizza, or that jukebox, or I might have never left San Diego."

Led Zeppelin: 3-10-75, Sports Arena

On tour behind their Physical Graffiti album, the mighty Zep played a 14-song set at the Sports Arena, with no opening band. Doors for the sold-out concert opened at 3:00 p.m., and seating was unreserved, with no chairs on the floor. A ten-foot balloon imprinted with "1975 World Tour" was bounced around the audience, until the band finally took the stage at 9:00 p.m., an hour later than scheduled.

As captured on the bootleg album Symphony in a Thousand Parts, after the opening medley of "Rock and Roll" and "Sick Again," Robert Plant implored the unruly crowd to "shut right up" and "step back," as patrons pressed toward the stage. The drum solo in "Moby Dick" ran just under a half hour in length, and female attendees reportedly showered the stage with underwear during the opening strains of "Stairway to Heaven." The bootleg album does not include the final encore, "Heartbreaker." Two weeks after this show, Zeppelin became the first band in history with six albums on the charts simultaneously.

Paul McCartney and Wings: 6-16-76, Sports Arena

McCartney brought his Wings Over America tour to the Sports Arena just as Wings at the Speed of Sound was topping the U.S. charts. "They flew in on a private jet, [and] people literally wept when McCartney hit the stage," recalls local music historian and Shambles front man Bart Mendoza. "He played a hit-filled show, lasting just over two hours, and included a few Beatles tunes -- 'I've Just Seen a Face,' 'Lady Madonna,' etc. -- but stuck heavily to his solo tunes." Mendoza says that a high point came with "a pyrotechnic-laden 'Live and Let Die.' But the defining moment was likely those first two seconds as the crowd realized that, yes, he was about to play 'Yesterday.' It was pandemonium."

Several songs from this show appear on the bootleg album Oriental Nightfish, produced in 1977 by Reading Railroad Records (aka Hoffman Avenue Industries, Inc.). A double LP on colored vinyl, San Diego cuts include "Jet," "Magneto and Titanium Man," "My Love," "Soily," and "Beware My Love."

The Who: 10-7-76, Sports Arena

Beneath Keith Moon's drum kit that evening was a Persian rug that the day before had graced a reception area near his room in a Phoenix hotel. According to the biographical DVD The Most Dangerous Man Alive, Moon was "accused by another hotel guest of urinating on the expensive carpet...easily seen by anyone walking past the room." Moon told hotel management that the wet spot had been caused by a spilled drink. "When told the band would be billed for the full value [of the rug], Moon moved some furniture off the carpet, rolled it up, slung it over his shoulder, and took it immediately to the band's tour bus, using it that night and over the next few dates [including San Diego] to anchor his notoriously unstable drum kit."

The 21-song set included cuts from their newest album, The Who by Numbers, including "Squeeze Box" and "Dreaming from the Waist," as well as an eight-song medley from Tommy (the movie version having debuted the previous year). No local news reports surfaced of damage to the Westgate Hotel, where the band stayed that night before driving to Oakland. The Who only played San Diego one other time with Moon before the drummer died in September 1978.

The Ramones: 12-15-78, Montezuma Hall

Touring behind their fourth album Road to Ruin, the Ramones were still breaking in new player "Marky," fresh from Richard Hell and the Voidoids. That night, they played "Rockaway Beach," "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," which Joey introduced as "the one that got us banned in Sweden" (true). The band were due to shoot scenes the next day for Rock and Roll High School at the abandoned Mount Carmel High in Watts. When they returned to play Montezuma Hall 10-31-79, they squeezed in a visit to the zoo, where they posed for a photo spread that ran a few weeks later in the short-lived local music magazine Kicks.

The Grateful Dead: 12-28-78, Golden Hall

This second of two nights at downtown's Golden Hall was one of the Dead's last performances with soon-to-be-fired keyboardist Keith Godchaux. An audience-recorded tape of the show has long circulated -- with a much-cursed break during "Eyes of the World" -- but now a soundboard recording of all 21 (or so) songs, provided by Dead guitarist Bob Weir, is available to fans online.

The New Barbarians: 5-22-79, Sports Arena

This was the final U.S. (and second-to-final ever) public concert by Keith Richards's short-lived "community service" band, formed to work off a drug bust. The stellar lineup included Richards, Ron Wood, jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, and Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan. Three weeks earlier, Richards had skipped out on a Milwaukee show, causing patrons to stage a riot, but all were present and accounted for at the Sports Arena.

The high-ticket garage band slammed through Wood solo songs, as well as tunes by Dylan, Chuck Berry, Johnny Paycheck, and of course several Stones standards (though "Honky Tonk Woman" went MIA, despite being played on most of the other 19 Barbarian dates). Wood sang lead for Dylan's "Love in Vain," evoking his old Faces version of the tune, while Richards tickled the ivories for Tammy Wynette's "Apartment Number 9" (?!). Famed album photographer Henry Diltz (Morrison Hotel, etc.) shot pictures in San Diego, and the band taped the gig (as did at least two bootleggers), but the New Barbarians didn't appear on official record until last year, when Wood released a double CD archiving a 1979 Maryland show.

The Police, XTC, and Oingo Boingo: 11-3-80, Golden Hall

Opening act XTC was riding on the popularity of their Black Sea album. Two years later, they'd play only one date of an American tour, in San Diego, before canceling the rest of the tour due to Andy Partridge's stage fright, essentially retiring from concert appearances forever. Oingo Boingo (with Danny Elfman) had only recently altered format, from a theatrical troupe called the Mystic Nights of the Oingo Boingo to a rock combo; they'd only released one self-titled EP under the shortened name at the time.

The Police's Zenyatta Mondatta (and its first single "Don't Stand So Close to Me") was in the U.S. top ten. The concert was sold out, with ticket sales reported at 14,585. I had a second-row seat, and the statute of limitations now allows me to admit that I broke that seat while dancing on it to "Walking on the Moon." The Police were reportedly so exhausted by this show that they canceled their next gig in Las Vegas to recuperate.

After the concert, gate-crashers were found to have gained entry via an ingenious route. On the roof of the Hall, a vent duct had been disassembled, and an unknown number of ticketless patrons apparently climbed into the hole to enter an elevator shaft, open a trap door, and drop in. The elevator faced an administrative area leading directly to the concert hall itself. The breach was discovered later, as the gate-crashers neglected to reclose the elevator ceiling's trap door or return to the roof to reattach the vent grate. The illicit access was soon curtailed by pouring cement over the roof's vent bolts.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions: 9-15-83, Sports Arena

Elvis and company played this experimental "amphitheater seating" show at the Sports Arena with two-thirds of the venue blocked off. The bands (including openers Aztec Camera) were set up in the rear of the venue, playing to what would normally be the worst seats in the house. Only about a third of the 3500 seats were filled, even though the Attractions' new album Punch the Clock (their first without producer Nick Lowe) had been their most commercial effort to date. The record had spawned a hit song and video, "Every Day I Write the Book" (Costello's first U.S. Top 40 single, at number 36), and yet the show was so sparsely attended that security guards were letting anyone enter, with or without tickets. The Attractions finished their set for fewer than 1000 (delighted) fans, myself among them, and "amphitheater seating" at the Sports Arena died soon after.

Spirit: 8-6-84, Rodeo

The reunion of Spirit's classic lineup should have finally earned them the fame and acclaim they'd long deserved. Guitarist Randy California and drummer Ed Cassidy had been calling their band Spirit, but this date at La Jolla's defunct Rodeo was the group's first performance in nine years to also include original members Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes (who were having hits as Jo Jo Gunne) and John Locke. It was the opening date of their first tour together in 14 years. Cassidy was 61 years old, Ferguson and Andes had tasted considerable post-Spirit success (Andes had also played with Firefall and was still with Heart), and California had clearly taken his version of Spirit in a more hippie-jam direction since the original lineup fractured.

My balcony seat afforded me a great view of both the band on fire and a wildly enthusiastic audience stoking the flames. Even if it weren't a historic occasion for Spirit (in my opinion the best and most underrated band ever to emerge from L.A.), I'd still rank it among the top fives shows I've seen. However, despite the five-album deal they'd just signed with Mercury Records, and regardless of the demonstrative sellout crowd in San Diego, the reunited Spirit only played a handful of subsequent gigs. Members soon went their separate ways -- again -- leaving only core members Ed Cassidy and Randy California to carry on the name. For a while. California drowned in 1997, while saving his son from an ocean riptide in Hawaii (his son survived). Locke died in 2006 from complications due to lymphoma.

Wild Man Fischer: 8-5-88, San Diego Comic-Con

Moving around between low-budget downtown hotels in the mid-'80s, Frank Zappa's one-time protégé Larry "Wild Man" Fischer quietly became a San Diego street fixture. In 1988, his friend Bill (Lost in Space) Mumy came to town for the San Diego Comic Convention, along with a few comic-creator musicians who'd formed a band called Seduction of the Innocent. Fischer told the Reader: "Billy said, 'Why don't you sing with us? You'll have a good time!' It'd been a long time since I'd played live." Was he nervous about the prospect? "I'm always nervous," he says.

Fischer was coerced onstage long enough for an incandescent set that included his doo-wop ditty "The Taster" and an a cappella rendering of "Merry Go Round." ("I'm getting a little sick of that song," he says now about his best-known tune.) The crowd was rowdy and responsive, even those unfamiliar with Fischer. His ever-increasing volume, enthusiasm, and spasmodic onstage body language proved infectious, and the audience handed "Wild Man" the most sustained applause of the evening. I was lucky enough to catch this rare show, one of only two dozen or so gigs Fischer can recall performing (struggling with schizophrenia, he'd backed out of many performances). Video clips appear in a new documentary film about Fischer, DeRailroaded.

Nirvana: 10-24-91, Off the Record

Thanks to the Hillcrest record store's relationship with Geffen Records, OTR hosted Nirvana for an in-store appearance near the start of their first national headline tour. "Right when we found out [Nirvana] was definitely coming, Nevermind jumped from number 20 to number 7 on the Billboard charts," recalls store manager Phil Galloway. "Part of the deal was that we had to provide the equipment, a 12-string guitar, a PA...the plan was for them to do an all-acoustic set. Geffen [Records], or some radio network, was also going to record it. Things on our side fell through because we had all right-handed instruments, and so Curt went ahead and played electric guitar. They ended up doing a whole 40-minute hard-rock set.

"After the set, they hung out and signed autographs and posters for people. You could tell Curt [Cobain] wasn't into that part at all, though. He wasn't in the mood to pose for pictures and, well, let's just say he was definitely feeling down. Not at all like he was during the set...A lot of us talked about that later, how he seemed to be having a great time, and all of a sudden he looked so miserable and depressed. The guys in the band went out to dinner with a bunch of the employees, some record-company people, and even a few customers got invited along, but that definitely wasn't something [Cobain] was into." A video of this performance has been uploaded to YouTube.

When Nirvana returned to San Diego to play the Sports Arena 12-29-93, their 24-song set was the source of two widely circulated bootleg albums. Smells Like TJ captures all 100 minutes onto a Hi8 master, while Pissongs is missing most of the unidentified mystery finale.

Jethro Tull: 9-19-93, SDSU Outdoor Amphitheatre

The band had canceled an earlier local show due to singer Ian Anderson's throat problems. This concert (the final date of a U.S. tour) got off to a rough start, with Anderson verbally berating an audience member near the front for smoking a joint. He later gave a short speech about how the stage pulls smoke past him and how this affects his singing. "He mentioned he had been taking amoxicillin and joked he was receiving it anally," according to Reader reviewer Allan Peterson.

The upside to the vocal problems was that they played unusual instrumental versions of songs normally sung ("The Whistler," "Sossity, You're a Woman"), as well as added numbers rarely performed live, like Andy Giddings's "Parrott" and a lengthy flute solo that included bits of "In the Grip of Stronger Stuff" (unreleased until two years later). Peterson describes the latter as "an untitled jazzlike instrumental that seemed free of any historical expectation and actually flew on its own." Opening band Procol Harum pranked the headliners by showing up onstage while Tull played -- for the only time that tour -- in drag!

Pink Floyd: 4-14-94, Jack Murphy Stadium

"I could easily smell the burning stench of our failed drug laws," wrote Reader columnist Allan Peterson about Pink Floyd's first San Diego concert in 19 years. The immense scope of the elaborate show, with all its effects, movie screens, inflatable animals, and (excellent) quad sound, is not what ranks this show (sans the "real" Pink, Roger Waters) among great and historic local events. Rather, it was the stirring performance of "The Great Gig in the Sky." Peterson says, "Singer Durga McBroom's take on that classic piece was seamlessly compelling and contained all that one could hope for -- longing, sadness, acceptance, raw beauty...the terrifying immediacy of mortality, the telling reality of loss." I felt the same chill down my spine during the rendition, and over a decade later, that's "the moment" everyone I know who was there still raves about. Bootleg aficionados apparently agree, usually ranking this date -- and that performance of "Great Gig" -- among the best of the entire U.S. tour.

Pearl Jam: 11-6-95 and 11-7-95, Sports Arena

The Ramones opened for these two sold-out general-admission shows. On opening night, "They did an awesome version of 'Deep' with some cool-sounding slide sounds," recalls an attendee on the band's Fanview webpage. "They performed a short screamer of a song. Later we would find this to be 'Lukin,' but it wouldn't be released until No Code came out in August of '96...they did a sweet version of 'Black,' with lighters raised all around and the crowd chanting to the doo doo doo. At the conclusion of 'Blood,' Eddie slammed his microphone stand into the ground and threw it into the crowd. The band left the stage and the noise level was incredible, trying to get the band back out for an encore." Also on the setlist was another unreleased No Code number, "Habit," and a cover of the Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star."

Of the second night, Tom S. at Fanview says, "At the end [of "I Got Shit"], Eddie was having a problem with his guitar, it didn't want to stay in tune. He leaned into the mike and said, 'Watch this,' whereupon he took his axe off and grabbed it by the neck, spun around, and launched the fucker over Jack's head, clearing it by maybe a foot, and said, 'New guitar please; after all, I am a rock star.' " Introducing "Leaving Here," Vedder told the crowd, "We tried to play this song last night, and we fucked it up really badly, so we'd like to try it again." Says Tom S.: "It was funny because they false-started it three times before they got it going. But, when they did, it sounded great."

Stevie Nicks: 8-29-00, National Association of Chain Drug Stores Convention

The Fleetwood Mac songstress brought her full wardrobe and dual video screens for this private corporate gig in a dinner club setting at the Marriott Hotel. "She started the show with 'Enchanted,' and the entire band sounded very technical and like a studio recording," recalls Jim T at Nicksfix.com. "Her appearance reminded me of the FM days in the late '70s that I grew up listening to. She was charismatic and looked young again...people stood and started dancing in their dresses and suits."

Erin at Nicksfix -- only 14 at the time -- says, "Everyone was screaming and clapping for her...She was wearing the same dress she wore on VH1's Storytellers, and I also noticed that she traded her usual platform boots for black platforms where the whole sole touched the ground with rhinestones on the front...Stevie dedicated 'Landslide' to all of us, and while she was singing, I just wanted to cry."

Paul McCartney: 2-22-03, Rancho Santa Fe private party

When Ralph Whitworth threw his wife a 50th birthday party at Delicias restaurant, he forked out a million bucks (for charity) to have McCartney perform for the crowd of around 150. Macca and band (including guitarist Rusty Anderson) did 19 songs, as well as the Beatles' rarely performed "Birthday" (which was later added to the tour's setlist). In a press release, McCartney said, "Normally I don't do this sort of gig, but I was chuffed to do it because it was a 'win-win' show. Ralph gets to be the great husband for organizing the surprise, his wife gets a rocking party, I get to rehearse the band for the tour, and most important, Adopt-A-Minefield gets one million dollars."

"Crasher" columnist Josh Board knows Rusty Anderson's sister, who lives in San Diego. "The day after the Rancho Santa Fe concert, I called to ask if she was there. She said, 'No, I didn't make it. Rusty left a few messages on my machine, but I got them too late. I can't believe it. For them to be so close like that. And I went all the way to Russia to see them.' "

Less than a year later, the Whitworths filed for divorce.

U2: 3-28-05 and 3-30-05, Sports Arena

The opening dates of U2's Vertigo Tour came just two weeks after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ticket prices ran $49.50 to $165, though area resale agencies like Advancetickets.com were charging $1190 for fifth-row seats. "The band sounded amazing from start to finish," says Interference.com contributing editor Devlin Smith of the opening date. "Even though Bono said at the end of the main set, 'You can screw up a little, we're amongst friends, right?' I couldn't name a single blunder.

"Bono said during 'One,' 'Did You come here to play, Jesus, because I did,' and introduced himself to the audience during the night's closer, '40,' as Little Lord Jesus," says Smith. "Edge was confident and comfortable, taking much of the spotlight for himself as he shared vocal duties on 'Miracle Drug,' sang 'La, la, la, la, de, day' on 'Running to Stand Still,' and sported a Madonna-style head mike to provide backing vocals on 'Zoo Station.' " Smith says drummer Larry Mullen was "broadening his stage persona, supplying backing vocals for 'Love and Peace or Else' and 'Elevation,' and picking out notes on a synthesizer for 'Yahweh.' " As for bassist Adam Clayton, "He and Edge did mix it up, readopting an early-'80s tradition of swapping instruments for 40."

According to Pollstar magazine, the March 30 show grossed $2.9 million, making it the only 2005 San Diego show among that year's top 100 moneymaking concerts.

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I was at the Paul McCartney and Wings concert on June 16. 1976 and The Who October 7, 1976 amazing shows I saw a lot of concerts in my tween any teenage years living in Del Mar the Sports Arena was famous for putting on great concerts. Alice Cooper Welcome to my Nightmare, Peter Frampton The Rolling Stones. The next best concert venue was The Cow Palace.

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