By Jay Broderick: As mentioned in my blog "Musicians We've Already Lost in 2022", the first concert I ever saw was April Wine at the Exhibition Grandstand in Toronto. Now, 40+ years later, I have many live music events under my belt. As I reminisce, and with our recent BEST OF 2023 list, I thought it would be fun to highlight my most memorable concerts, EVER.
The list is not specific to my favourite bands, or tours supporting my favourite album releases. While the shows noted are from bands that are partial to my heart, the specific gigs noted have stood out in my mind as most memorable, for one reason or another. Here are my Top 5 Most Memorable Concerts Ever.
#5 - Testament with Special Guests Annihilator and Wrathchild America - The Apocalypse Club, Toronto - November 6, 1989
From what I can gather online, the Apocalypse Club in Toronto was active from 1989 - 1991 only. But during the club's brief stint, many famous and infamous acts turnstiled through its doors. Bands like Sacred Reich, and Henry Rollins, but none bigger than Seattle's own Soundgarden. I can't even have imagined seeing them at this venue. Must have been wild.
November 6, 1989 was my only visit to this venue when the gang went to see Testament. Testament was touring to support their 1989 release "Practice What You Preach". We had actually seen the band 3 times in 2 years during this timeframe.
The lineup on this night had the unknown (to us anyway) band Wrathchild America kicking off the evening. Unfortunately, due to some legalities, they had to change their name from Wrathchild, as there was an existing band of the same name. We were all impressed, and I went out and bought their CD Climbin' the Walls.
Sandwiched in the middle were new Canadian Metal Heads Annihilator supporting their debut record Alice in Hell. This was one we were familiar with, and despite a revolving door of bandmembers over the years, Annihilator is one of Canada's premiere metal outfits.
The lineup this night was fantastic, but beyond the music, what makes this show stand out in my mind was the venue. I'm not certain why the club eventually closed down, but as a patron watching a live music event, it seemed to be a deathtrap. I'm not the tallest of dude's in the least, but the ceiling seemed to be right on top of me and the rest of the crowd. It quite honestly could not have been more than 8 or 9 feet high.
Testament's lead singer Chuck Billy made it known that he was not impressed with the club. The stage may have been an inch or 2 off the floor, and he immediately made comment about the horrible setting. He frequently spit at, and stabbed the bottom of his microphone stand into the ceiling.
In 2003, the band Great White played a gig at The Station Nightclub in Rhode Island. Tragically, 100 people died and over 200 were injured as fire broke out from the band's pyrotechnics, and they simply could not escape. When I heard this news, my thoughts immediately went to the show we attended on a cold November evening in 1989. Oh, how easily things could have been different.
4. Pantera with Special Guest White Zombie - The Concert Hall, Toronto - August 31, 1992
Toronto's Concert Hall was probably my favourite venue to catch a show. With a very small capacity, I saw many shows at the general admission locale. At 888 Yonge Street, the 100 year old venue is still open, but sadly, not to the types of concerts we frequented back in the day.
The August 31, 1992 Pantera/White Zombie show was the last I saw here, but that's not the only reason it makes the list. When White Zombie released their album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One in 1992, I was immediately hooked and have been a massive Rob Zombie fan ever since. With a love for horror movies ever since I was a kid, Rob Zombie was (is) a Horror God. The aforementioned album contained clips from such cult films like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead" among many others. I was ecstatic to be seeing them perform live, and actually still have the t-shirt from this show.
Now let's not forget the headliners. Pantera had come onto the scene in the early 80s as more of a glam metal band, but it was with their 1990 release Cowboys from Hell that they blew the doors off the metal world. Their follow-up, 1992s "Vulgar Display of Power" is heralded as one of the greatest metal albums of all time. Perhaps it made my list?
Beyond the music, Pantera had a break in their set to introduce Toronto to their own personal Circus Performer. My age has gotten the best of me here, as I do not recall the gentleman's name, but the act is burned in my brain forever. The "old" dude (he could have been 50, who knows.... but to me, at the time, he was old) had an uncanny ability to chug a beer... THROUGH HIS NOSE! And of course, he had to show us. And of course, it was crazy! WHAT A NIGHT!!!
3. Megadeth with Special Guests Warlock and Sanctuary - The Concert Hall, Toronto - April 18, 1988
This was my first thrash metal show ever. Since the venue was a general admission gate, it was critical for my buddies and I to get the best view of the bands. We needed to be front row. So we skipped out immediately at the end of school and headed downtown to line up outside the Concert Hall. Sure enough, we were the first ones there, and we were elated.
After a ~4 hour wait, the doors opened, we showed our tickets, and we rushed in. A barrier, barely big enough for security was between the stage and the crowd and we were right at the front. Our wishes had come true. With security there, what could go wrong??
At 9:30, the lights went out for Sanctuary. At this exact moment, as though by complete instinct, the crowd rushed forward, pinning everybody in the "front row" against the barrier. For a kid like myself, 120 lbs soaking wet and still 2 months from his 17th birthday, if you went down, you were a goner. Trampled to death, just like my mother told me.
So what is one to do? The whole front row had no choice but to hold themselves up by holding onto the stage. But not so fast my darlings. The security guards who were there to "keep us safe", were having none of it on this evening. They demanded that people remove their hands from the stage "NOW! OR ELSE"... I distinctly see the kid beside me look up and tell the guard "I can't" and the security guard proceeded to pull out his foot long, solid steel flashlight and smashed it against the kid's forearms and wrists. And this happened down the line. I immediately pulled my hands off the stage, and I knew I was going to die!
I do not remember any of the opening act. Perhaps I was in complete fear for my life. At some point, I was able to work my way out of the madness and step off just to the side. I still managed to snag a fantastic spot to watch Doro Pesch of Warlock stun the teenagers of Toronto with not only her looks, but her heavy metal voice.
This was Megadeth's So Far, So Good, So What... tour. In hindsight, seeing Dave Mustaine in such a small venue was crazy. To be literally feet away from him and the rest of these Heavy Metal Gods was priceless. Of course, I'm not certain I realized how cool it actually was back then.
At one point, during Megadeth's set, I looked over to the massive floor speakers beside the stage and saw a dude who had a few too many joints and beers. He was literally leaning his head IN the speaker, with eyes closed, drifting off to oblivian. If this guy didn't go deaf in that ear, his head was definitely ringing for months.
Now, how cool is that experience? LOL! I thought I was going to die, but the show was superb, and the memories will be with me til I die. It was fucking amazing!!!
2. Lollapalooza with Primus, Alice in Chains, Arrested Development, Babes in Toyland, Dinosaur Jr., Fishbone, Front 24, Rage Against the Machine and Tool - Molson Park, Barrie ON - July 10, 1993
Ummmmm... as I'm typing this, it's impossible for me to believe that I was at this show. But I'll state off the top that the festivals at the old Molson Park in Barrie Ontario had multiple stages. The events lasted for most of the day, but you just couldn't see all the bands on the bill. At least, you couldn't see their full sets, as you had to travel (walk) to a different section of the park.
The first band on the main stage was Rage Against the Machine. I mean, WOW! Of course at that time, they were not as massive as they eventually became. We found a spot on the hill towards the back of the venue. As Rage played their set and "raged", the sea of people bobbed up and down. From our vantage point, it literally looked like waves on the ocean, and it stands out as one of the coolest visuals I've ever had. I love to talk about this show when I'm sharing my life's journeys with people and I will never get the vision out of my head. Nor do I want to.
At one point, a few of us got separated, but it turns out that a couple of my buddies headed over to the second stage. When they returned, they were dumb struck. They had just witnessed a band that they said were "Amazing". They couldn't believe it. "Some band called Tool" they told the ones who did not venture over to the other side. To this day, it hurts me that I didn't witness it, and they remain one of the bands that I have never seen.
After his return, my buddy Jon seemed a little worse for wear. Perhaps one too many of something..... he passed out on the lawn with his ball cap over his face. At second glance, we saw a pool of red spewing out of his mouth. To put it bluntly, he was puking... and we panicked... cuz he was puking blood! But the blood was kind of chunky, and we thought "What in the bloody hell is going on here??" Once he came to his senses, we monitored the situation. It wasn't blood at all. Rather, it was red licorice. It was all he had eaten all day... and everything else on an empty stomach, in the hot sun, is typically not a good mix.
Ever see a man stand at a 45 degree angle, leaning forward, completely defying gravity, after a bunch of beers? That's my buddy Mike! And we all witnessed it here.
Although I missed out on this phenom band called "Tool", I'm happy to say that I did see Alice in Chains. And yes, Mr. Layne Staley was still gracing us with his presence at that time. I was a big fan of the "grunge" scene and Staley was high on my list of favourite vocalists. So much so, that "Layne" was one of 2 names I had picked for my son at his birth. We ended up choosing the other name, but this frontman definitely made an impression on me.
As the sun set, the distinctive bass guitar slapping of "My Name is Mud" filled the night sky. The festival's headliner was opening their set and Les Claypool, Larry Lalonde, and Tim "Herb" Alexander burst into the opening track of their most recent release Pork Soda. I had recently become a fan of Primus and this was my first (but not last) attendance at one of their shows. As Claypool performed, a clear vision of his leg, cocked out to the side, stomping up and down sits in my mind. It was kinda goofy. It was kind of odd. It was pretty damned cool!!
For me, Les Claypool is the best bass guitar player of all time. And my mind was blown to learn that ex Thrash Metal band "Possessed"s guitarist Larry Lalonde was now playing guitar for Primus. Super cool!
Most definitively, one of the most memorable shows I have ever seen.
1. Alice Cooper with Motorhead - Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, ON - February 12, 1988
Admittedly, I was never the biggest Alice Cooper fan. Despite my love of Horror films, I just never had the love for one of the original masters of horror, at least on the music front. But a good friend of mine was (and still is) a massive fan.
I had not known "45 degree" Mike for very long at this point, having only met him as I transitioned to a new high school in September of 1987. I recall him sharing the theatrics of the musician's stage show. He explained that in addition to his musical talents, Alice Cooper was also an illusionist. But beyond his abilities to trick the mind and eyes, Alice Cooper's illusions were blood filled, and macabre. I was suddenly intrigued... what gold was I missing here? I needed to see it all first hand.
Needless to say, when the news struck that Alice Cooper would be coming to Toronto for his "Raise Your Fist AND YELL Tour", I wanted to go. With the support being one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all time in Motorhead (rest easy Lemmy), whom I was a huge fan, it was a no brainer. A bunch of us grabbed tickets, and we ended up sitting in the end blues. If you remember Maple Leaf Gardens, the blue seats were at opposite ends of the arena, so for us, we would be directly across from the stage. It was a straight on view, so we would see all the gory glory. Let the anticipation begin!
Once the show date arrived, we headed downtown Toronto, clambered through the Carlton Street doors, and marched to our seats. Motorhead's set was the absolute loudest concert I had ever seen. Very well known to be the loudest band in history, there was no denying the title they held. With our seats directly across, the sound blasted right at us. I loved it! But as much as I loved Motorhead (and their show was bloody brilliant), my mind was on the headliner. I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. And then it happened!
Cooper opened his set with "Teenage Frankenstein". During this track, a giant Frankenstein Monster comes walking out on stage. The magician immediately rips the head off the creature yet it continued to walk around. Cooper leads the headless figure over to a platform, he puts the head back on, and then knocks the creature over. It breaks apart into pieces on the stage, revealing nothing within. I'm like a kid when it comes to magic, so I was instantly hooked, and couldn't wait to see what else would transpire during the next hour plus.
The show went on to contain all the gory wonders as promised. With live snakes, impalements from microphone stands, blood splatter, stabbings, throat slitting, giant spiders being ripped apart, and be-headings, it's absolutely the coolest concert I have ever been to. But the big moment in this one was during the song "Killers" when an executioner comes out and escorts the singer to the gallows... and hangs him, right in front of our eyes.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the music. It was great. Way better than I had really understood, and a whole new appreciation was born. So much so, that I have seen the performer on a couple other occasions since this most memorable concert ever. And I even bought a show program... something I had never done prior, or have done since.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Billion Dollar Babies
Is It My Body
Go To Hell
Prince Of Darkness
Chop, Chop, Chop
Roses On White Lace
Only Women Bleed
The Black Widow
Under My Wheels
Got a most memorable show that sticks out in your mind like no other? Share it in the comments below!