After sharing my Top 10 Concerts of All Time, it's time to pull out those tattered ticket stubs of concerts that were plain awful. You never expect to see a bad show, but it happens. I didn't see Elvis in Hawaii or Morrison in Miami, but these 10 constitute a block of time I'd love to have back:
10. Foreigner, Peter Frampton, REO Speedwagon
07.06.96, Great Woods (Mansfield, Mass.)
We're traveling all afternoon from Long Island, drive directly to the show and are exhausted. We arrive to see Frampton play "Do You Feel Like We Do" with the voicebox effect and it's kind of neat. We're bumming we miss his full set. REO Stationwagon (I mean, Speedwagon) comes on next and is simply weak. I saw these guys upstage Ritchie Blackmore in '78, so I was disappointed. "Hi Infidelity" clearly ruined them. Foreigner is just plain predictable and boring.
9. The Kinks, Aimee Mann
07.27.93, Great Woods (Mansfield, Mass.)
It's raining and is our second concert in a row. We had seen Terence Trent D'Arby and Duran Duran put on an excellent show the previous night and are kind of "music-ed out." Mann is clearly disappointed to be opening (seemingly big ego at the time), and makes some snide comments. We had seen the Kinks in '86 at Lynn's Manning Bowl and had seen better. Granted, these aren't the early '70s Kinks, but we are left kind of empty. And you know what? "Lola" is tired. During the night, the Celtics' Reggie Lewis dies (no effect on concert, but worth mentioning).
8. The Firm
04.01.86, Boston Garden
On paper, this is supposed to be a great concert. Led Zeppelin axemaster Jimmy Page teaming up with bluesy Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers. Chris Slade, who we had seen with David Gilmour in '84, is on drums. But ya know what? This doesn't jive. It doesn't click. Chemistry is important and is clearly missing. Page takes center stage midway through the set, virtuosing his way through "Dazed and Confused" to appease the Zep fans. It's too long and too self-righteous.
7. Doobie Brothers
07.29.95, Great Woods (Mansfield, Mass.)
Michael McDonald is the worst thing that ever happened to this band. It's just plain bland. Layered keyboards, layered vocals, bad song selection, zero innovation. I wish I had seen this band in the mid-'70s, which sadly, was the peak of the Doobie Brothers' career. Another concert where we leave early. Beating traffic is better than listening to "Minute By Minute" and "What a Fool Believes." Yecch.
6. Neil Young with Social Distortion
Fall, '94, Boston Garden
Playing with Crazy Horse, we're hoping for classic Neil Young. Don't get it. He's in a raucous-rebel mood, tearing through bleeding guitar riffs. Now I know how fans felt in Newport when Dylan opened with "Maggie's Farm" on electric guitar. To me, Neil is easygoing, carefree, innovative and at his best when he's acoustic. This show is all electric. When the highlight is "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World," you know you haven't seen the best of Neil Young.
5. Indigo Girls
08.12.96, Hampton Beach Casino (Hampton, N.H.)
Another concert we should have never scheduled. Tail end of a vacation and we have to be to work the next day. Do you know how far Hampton Beach is when you're tired? The Indigo Girls are off tonight, and they admit it. They're actually testing out new tunes for "Shaming of the Sun" and find no problem with missed piano notes and ragged guitar riffs. One of this generation's top harmonizing duos, they flicker and stutter on the beach.
4. Duran Duran
11.13.97, Orpheum Theater ( Boston)
Holy cow, is this bad. This is the opening show of the tour and the band does not have the kinks worked out. Promoting their new album, "Medazzaland," original members Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes struggle both musically and technically. In fact, part way through the show the power goes out and they do an impromptu "unplugged" that only people in the few front rows can hear. Disappointing, since this is a band that can flat-out play live. But not tonight.
3. Guns 'n' Roses
12.05.91, Worcester (Mass.) Centrum
Axl is, of course, late, and sounds terrible. I forget what time the band actually shows up, but my guess is that the warmup band (forget their name) was long gone and in bed by the time G'n'R hits the stage. Which is where I wish I was. On album, this band was on top of its game in '91. We are lucky to get tickets. But the live product is a sloppy mess. Axl is wearing his silly kilt, seems drunk and is hoarse and out of tune. Slash rips through some meaningless guitar solos and my G'n'R bubble bursts in a big way.
2. Bruce Springsteen
08.13.92, Worcester (Mass.) Centrum
Who is this guy? Certainly not the passionate frontman we had seen eight years earlier. Bruce is in a turbulent marriage, and had just released "Lucky Town" and "Human Touch" on the same day. He is wearing a suit (are you kidding me or what?) and stands quietly like he is conducting a board meeting in a Westin hotel. We are so bored and disappointed that we leave early, only to find the parking attendants blocked us in with cars so we can't leave. Bad night. With Bruce, the bar is way high and this is a huge letdown.
1. Van Halen
08.13.98, Great Woods (Mansfield, Mass.)
Have to admit I'm a little freaked out that the two worst shows I've seen happened on Aug. 13. Whatever. VH plays four songs, and when they finish "Mean Street" they leave. No kidding. Gone. Turns out lead singer Gary Cherone (former front man of Extreme and VH's third lead singer) lost his voice. This is a bummer because we have excellent seats and can't return the next night because we have tickets for Pete Townshend at Harborlights. We got our money back, but a four-song set, unless you're Emerson, Lake and Palmer, just doesn't cut it.