The first time that I saw Bon Jovi was some time around 1985, with them opening for LA rockers Ratt at the new Haven Coliseum. I'm not a big fan of the whole "the opening act stole the show" thing but was indeed how I felt upon leaving that night. Bigger things awaited the New Jersey rockers than leather-clad hair metal. You may not like them, but I wasn't wrong.
Def Leppard/Billy Squier I have to say, another instance where the opening act totally stole the show. The Mutt Lange-produced rockers from Sheffield, England finally made their way stateside to launch their technicolor stage show supporting "Pyromania" and from the minute they took the stage with "Rock Rock Til You Drop" you just knew Billy was in trouble.
Billy Squier/Queen On the flipside, just a few years earlier Squier acquitted himself quite nicely opening for the one and only Queen. Make no mistake, he came nowhere near stealing the show, but when he opened with "Lonely Is The Night," just him and his guitar, he was captivating. The set that ensued was top notch. But Freddie Mercury was just never a guy who was going to have a show stolen from him. My ride wanted to leave after Squier and I let them, staying at the Coliseum alone, at the ripe old age of 14. Mercury was a sight to behold, and changed my bar as far as concert expectations go forevermore. (Incidentally, this is the only ticket stub I ever kept; it cost $12 for this show.)
The J. Geils Band The "Freeze Frame" record was evidently a departure for die-hard fans of the bluesy rockers. They seemed to chafe at the notion of Peter Wolf and Co. having a hit single, which they did with "Centerfold," a song I spun on my turntable so tirelessly my siblings took to hiding it from me. Wolf skipping rope with his glow-in-the-dark mic chord is permanently etched in my memory. Freshman year of high school was off to a stellar start.
Greg Kihn/Rick Springfield Kihn's set was worth getting there early if only for the contagious "Break-Up Song." I had to talk my boys into going to this show (mostly because I couldn't drive and was meeting my girlfriend there) by telling them the place would be crawling with ladies. It was, but I knew they'd leave conveying disbelief at how skilled a guitarist the Australian was, and remains. Opening with the song "Kristina," an obvious homage to BTO's "Jamaica," Springfield rocked the place.
Flock of Seagulls/ The Go-Go's It didn't get much more 80's than this double-bill, with the crowd waiting patiently through the Seagulls set just to get to their hit "I Ran." Until that point it was all about the lead singer's 'do. As for the Go-Go's, for me it was all about cutie Jane Wiedlin and her angelic approach to both playing and lending vocals to the bridge of "Our Lips Are Sealed." But these gals gave it 100%, and "We Got The Beat" and "Vacation" were an absolute blast live.
Y&T/Motley Crue No, there's no reason you should know the band Y&T, but their anthem "Summertime Girls" rightly so secured them the coveted slot opening for LA animals The Crue. This wasn't the "Tommy Lee played his drums upside down and then fell on his head" New Haven gig, but it was memorable nonetheless. I never heard "City Boy Blues" live again, and we all probably should have.
RUSH Man, I went kicking and screaming to this show. By this point I was no longer a Notre Dame student but instead attending East Haven High School. I fell in with the wrong crowd briefly. A Getty Lee-loving crowd. I loved "Closer To The Heart" so I clung to the fact that at least that would be coming my way live. But my buddy Rick knew a security guard there who let us watch Neil Peart's drum solo from behind the stage. Yeah, that was life-changing.
Triumph Another Canadian trio, I always felt Triumph deserved the love Rush hogged. Rik Emmett is about as accomplished a guitarist as one can be, to this day playing jazz all over the country. I loved this band, and this marked the only time I ever saw them live. We bought tickets from a "scalper" and made our way in just in time to catch "Fight The Good Fight" and "Magic Power" back to back and I remember thinking that I wished high school would never end.
Stevie Nicks Sure, she kept calling us New York, but Nicks delivered despite not having Buckingham to her left or Mick behind her on the drums. Hey, it was her solo stuff anyway, and good solo stuff at that. "Stand Back," "If Anyone Falls," and the absurdly unknown "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You" hypnotized, and she even did "Landslide," to thunderous applause. That song completely kills me today, by the way.
Skid Row/Aerosmith By now in college, I was tragically in the company of a few gals who expressed disbelief when they discovered that the "Dude Looks Like A Lady" guys were the same guys behind "Dream On" and "Sweet Emotion." It could have depressed me but, hey, they were hot. In the throes of a serious resurgence on the charts, Tyler, Perry and the rest of the Boston rockers ripped through the "new stuff," but didn't even come close to ignoring the stuff that put them on the map in the first place. Tyler was mesmerizing and still a force to be reckoned with today.