Editor’s Note: We recently asked our readers to share memories of their favorite concert experience, aka “Best.Show.Ever.” We’ve gotten some incredible stories — and are always game to hear more (send ’em to: firstname.lastname@example.org and yours might end up in print on our site). In the meantime, here’s one great tale that came over the transom.
The best concert I ever saw was Yes with Gentle Giant opening — I think on July 24, 1976 — at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. As is likely the case with most “best concert” experiences, the magnitude of the impact was at least partly due to the emotional context (my age and the nature of my exposure to these two bands on vinyl) as well as the quality of the performance.
I was 17. Had progressed (so to speak) from Deep Purple and Creedence four years before, through ELP and King Crimson to Yes, which I had regarded as my favorite band for the preceding year or so. As a teen coming of age in the dying timber port of Coos Bay, southern Oregon, surrounded by rednecks, jocks, and potheads, we took inordinate pride in being prog fans who listened to music nobody around us had ever heard of — including Atomic Rooster, The Nice, and Be-Bop Deluxe.
Two buddies and I had bought tickets for the Yes show that spring and would have to drive more than 200 miles from downstate for it, but then one of them played GG’s Free Hand album for me, which utterly blew my mind. The best part, he added: We already had tickets to see them, because they were opening for Yes!
Yes was dependably memorable (this was during the brief period after the release of Relayer when Patrick Moraz had replaced Rick Wakeman, but more than 7 years before Rabin and the “Owner of a Lonely Heart” single) . . . still, there was something cool and distant about them; they seemed like gods who had descended briefly from the heavens to serenade us mere mortals for an hour or so . . . while Gentle Giant had a very “Aw shucks, we’re just five regular blokes having a fun time up here” demeanor — all the while doing astonishing musical things on stage.
My allegiance switched, then and forever, to GG . . . where it has remained ever since.
After the advent of the internet, I hooked up with Gentle Giant fans. I’ve been to party gatherings of GG fans and even sung the national anthem to open local pro (minor-league baseball and hockey) games with Gentle Giant fans I met through the online community. And when the band issued a massive retrospective boxed set of 29 CDs last fall, including remasters of all their studio albums and 16 live shows, with accompanying booklets, titled Unburied Treasure, you can bet I ordered one of just 2,000 copies at just under $350 including shipping from the UK!