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First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

Related:
Slideshow: First Avenue: An archived history via flyers, riders & contracts
First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #20-11
First Avenue's 20 best concerts: Readers' picks
First Avenue's 40 years of rock 'n' roll
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list

10. Basement Jaxx, First Avenue, 10/08/01
Basement Jaxx's first appearance in Minneapolis was at the old Quest Club shortly after their seminal Remedy release in 1999, and although it was a stormer of a show, it was only a DJ set. A few years later in October of 2001, the two U.K. blokes came through the Twin Cities again, this time at First Avenue for a live performance of their sophomore release, Rooty, complete with tribal dancers, fire, and live instrumental elements. The show -- and that album -- marked a vulnerable yet fun year in dance music's history, both locally and abroad, as less than a year later the RAVE act would swoop in and suffocate the most creative part of the scene. But at least for this memorable night, everyone was celebrating. --Jen Boyles

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

9. Pavement/ Wilco/The Dirty Three, First Avenue, 05/26/95 
There are some headlining sets that are so good that no matter who the openers are, you can't remember much about their performances. That is clearly the case with Pavement's riveting Mainroom show in 1995. Wilco were there in support of their just-released debut, A.M., along with frequent Nick Cave collaborators the Dirty Three, while Pavement were touring behind their brilliant new record Wowee Zowee. As with all of Pavement's live performances, this was a splendidly shambolic show that drew generously from all three of their stellar LPs. The band members were still getting along relatively well at this point, which gave their underdog anthems an irresistible slacker spirit that the college-age crowd clearly identified with. "Rattled By the Rush," indeed. --Erik Thompson

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

8. The Fugees/the Roots/Goodie Mob, First Avenue, 11/96
Three of the era's biggest acts hit the road on a small-club tour to rave reviews, but First Avenue was the high point as each crew wanted to out-rock each other in the house that Prince built. The Fugees headlined, and it just as "Killing Me Softly" was about to repeat on pop radio. This was Lauryn Hill at her best. Her voice boomed off the walls as Wyclef Jean cemented himself as a true performer and, oh yeah, Pras was in there somewhere. The Roots were on-point creatively, and fresh with their live band and impromptu jam session. Black Thought did covers of Wu-Tang and impersonated each member perfectly. You swore he was magically channeling Ghostface. But no doubt this new group from Atlanta had everyone talking: Goodie Mob stole the show with a high-energy charismatic performance. Cee-Lo rapping his full verse on "Goodie Bag" brought the house down. People who were in attendance knew this was a special night and knew something like this would never happen again. As Khujo starting throwing buckets of fried chicken into the audience as an encore, we were all celebrating this golden show during this golden era of hip hop. --Lars Larson

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

7. Rhymesayers Entertainment 10th Anniversary Show, First Avenue, 7/22/05
Like an early Motown Records revue, not one group was the headliner. Instead, it was the whole label, or in this case, a whole city and movement. Rhymesayers celebrating their 10th anniversary was a "we arrived"-type moment and the crowd knew it as well. From the early days in the Entry to cats, vans, bags across the country, it was time to cut the cake and drop the balloons. The venue was packed to the doors and stifling hot. But the fire came from the stage as the show was fast-paced with no downtime or lull and every act from Atmosphere to Musab brought its A game with short, powerful sets. Los Nativos charged the crowd in full headdress and war paint attire and new labelmates P.O.S and Mac Lethal proved they belonged. Everyone got stage time, even a real MF Doom managed to show up, and you know it's a special night when that happens. --Lars Larson

 

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

6. The Jayhawks, First Avenue, 7/7-8-9/95

At the height of summer, and six months after the release of Tomorrow the Green Grass, the Jayhawks returned to First Avenue for three consecutive nights. There's almost nothing like experiencing a packed Mainroom with like-minded music lovers on a sizzling summer night. The band (augmented by fiddler Mike "Razz" Russell) shared the songs from their (at this point) four-album catalog and exciting covers that displayed their influences. Just a few months later, Mark Olson left the band, marking an end to this lineup on the First Avenue stage for 15 full years. The classic lineup triumphantly brought it all back home for another three-night stand in the summer of 2010. --Steve Cohen
First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

5. U2, First Avenue, 2/21/82
In a smaller venue, the young and spiritually charged rising rock stars U2 were mixed with a devoted audience that, even then, knew every word to every song. As Bono struggled with the words to a "Southern Man" encore, he brought up a member of the audience to help him with the performance. This was Bono before the bug shades, this was Edge debating the relationship between faith and the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, and this was way before multimillion-dollar Pop Mart stage setups. This was a simple Irish band, up close and personal with its fan base; they would never be this intimate and vulnerable again. The electricity of this night will never be matched again as U2 moved on to bigger venues over the years. --Lars Larson

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

4. Radiohead, First Avenue, 4/03/96
Many Radiohead devotees have already spoken out about the legendary show the band put on the year prior to this gig (6/04/95, although my ticket stub says 6/11/95). In both cases, a brash young folk singer named David Gray was the opening act, and both shows were examples of the band right before meeting people became so easy. Having attended both, I think the 1996 concert had more of a feel for where the band would end up on OK Computer. For Bends purists, this would be a nightmare. But those of us looking for the band to distance itself from the Buzz Bin, hearing wild renditions of songs like "Ripcord" that would soon go in the vault forever was only the tip of those Kid A icebergs. Plus, they did an in-store signing at Let It Be Records after the concert. --Reed Fischer 

 

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1


3. Public Enemy, First Avenue, 12/12/88
In a time before Chuck D became the hip-hop guy every NPR listener could quote, Public Enemy was the band that was scary. Hip hop went from the cartoony plumage of Grandmaster Flash to the harder attitudes of Ice-T and PE. Walking into their first show felt dangerous -- at least from my perspective as gothy teenager from Fridley. It felt like a moment where everything changed. Punk rock wasn't dangerous anymore, but this was. With Griff and the hard-stepping of the Nation of Islam soldiers, Chuck D and Flavor Flav stepped so hard that it was bouncing Terminator X's turntables. It was a bit like losing your virginity, only without sex and a lot more references to Louis Farrakhan. --Chris Strouth

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

2. Prince, First Avenue, 7/07/07
Needless to say, there are countless Prince shows at First Ave that could fit in this slot. Take your pick from the run of mid-'80s blowouts, the filming of Purple Rain, the exploration of Sign O' the Times, and so forth. This was the most surprising show of them all. On the morning of 7/7/07, my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I rolled out of bed and got hastily dressed. It was Prince day. People had been sleeping on the sidewalks surrounding First Avenue since the night before, and I was worried I wouldn't get there in time. After an eight-hour wait I had both a wristband and a ticket.

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

Another eight-hour wait later that night proved that it was worth everything to see Prince onstage in his second home again. It came along with a performance in Macy's and at Target Center. Sheila E and Wendy showed up, among other special guests, and it took the Minneapolis police to shut down the show around 4 a.m. --Stacy Schwartz

First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #10-1

1. Joe Cocker, the Depot, 4/03/70
Nothing feels as sweet as the first time. According to the April 4, 1970, edition of the Minneapolis Tribune, "not since the truck drivers' strike of 1934 is it likely that there has been such excitement, such chaos, such congestion, such noise just off Hennepin Av. as there was Friday night." The account, which later calls the space Fillmore Upper Midwest, says that carpeting and other interior decorations weren't yet installed, but the old bus station was packed with sun-tanned men and women wearing expensive hippie garb by the time Cocker hit the stage just after 8 p.m. The $10 tables were full, the $4 standing room was reserved for those willing fight for it, and the initial stocking of booze was used up by showtime. A long-haired Cocker worked hard on a stage filled with 40 people, "singing like a black man" and dancing "like a spastic," and the two sets had the feel of a circus sideshow. From day one, this club had its magnetic persona established. --Reed Fischer  

What was your favorite show at First Avenue? Write us, and send photos to gimmenoise@citypages.com and we'll include you in a list of readers' picks on the blog next week.

Related:
First Avenue's 20 best concerts: #20-11
First Avenue's 20 best concerts: Readers' picks
First Avenue's 40 years of rock 'n' roll
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list


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