The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history

The Phoenix picks the shows that have defined the scene
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  October 30, 2006

Billie Joe Armstrong at the Hatch Shell

Forty years ago, the very idea that rock and roll was worth serious consideration was novel at best. Jazz, blues, classical? Sure. But rock and roll was just dirty kids’ stuff. Fodder for the gossip pages, perhaps. but soon, the fissure between pop singer and rock band widened until it became difficult if not impossible to ignore this new cultural force. And, beyond Rolling Stone and few other emerging national publications, it was in places like the Phoenix the alternative weeklies — that the rock critic found his or her platform.

Music coverage is now integral to our mission. And we’re fortunate to live in a city that supports a thriving music scene of its own, a destination for any serious touring act. And yet Boston is not LA or New York. It’s not an industry center. So there are things that happen on stages here that just don’t happen anywhere else. For some artists, it’s almost like a second home, which has made for 40 years of great music, unforgettable shows, and legendary performances. Here’s our list of the 40 greatest.

We thought of many more shows that didn’t make the list; every entry sparked memories of half a dozen other great ones. Did anybody we know see Sonic Youth’s first show and was it really at Mass Art? What about that notorious Police show at the Rat — the one that purportedly drew only three paying customers? And what about all those all-ages hardcore matinees, especially since every now and again the Del Fuegos or Echo and the Bunnymen played that circuit?

We wouldn’t have pulled this together if we weren’t expecting — no, hoping — that anyone reading it will feel compelled to remind us of all the shows we missed. So add your own Boston rock experiences in the comments sections. Click here to get the list started.


Written by Matt Ashare, Ted Drozdowski, Jon Garelick, Brett Milano, Will Spitz, and Jim Sullivan.

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  Topics: Live Reviews , Entertainment, Music, Pop and Rock Music,  More more >
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