The Top Ten Most Memorable Rock Concerts Ever Held in Philadelphia

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© Linda Wolf 2015 © Linda Wolf 2015

Over the years I have been fortunate to see hundreds of concerts.  I was able to do this because those of us in the business get passes to almost all the shows.-or at least we used to. Things have tightened up over the years with the changes in the record and concert business.

Out of those many concerts I have tried to narrow it down to the top ten. It wasn’t easy.  There were many great concerts that I left out.  I also stayed away from the BIG concerts at places like the stadiums, where they were more like events than enjoyable shows.

1) Joe Cocker with the Mad dogs and Englishmen at the Academy of Music April 5, 1970

The thing that made this such an historic concert wasn’t just because of the music. The music was indeed sensational, despite the fact that the band was on a very lengthy tour that left them exhausted.  The music director was Leon Russell.  The Mad Dogs and friends included:

Vocals: Don Preston, Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Donna Washburn, Claudia Lennear, Denny Cordell, Daniel Moore, Pamela Polland, Matthew Moore, Nicole Barclay and Bobby Jones

Guitars: Don Preston, Leon Russell

Bass guitar: Carl Radle

Hammond organ, keyboards, piano: Leon Russell, Chris Stainton

Drums, percussion: Jim Gordon, Chuck Blackwell, Jim Keltner, Sandy Konikoff

Saxophones: Bobby Keys

Trumpets: Jim Price

These were among the very best musicians available at that time.

The way the show was presented still has some people talking to this very day.  Besides the crowded stage of musicians, there were kids in diapers and dogs were actually walking all over the stage. What a sight! Before the night was over there were babies crying and dogs barking.  Undoubtedly, the management looked on in complete horror. Rumor has it that this was the show that got rock music banned from the Academy of Music. 

NOTE: Linda Wolf has just released a great new book with exclusive photos of Joe Cocker and this tour.  For more information or to purchase, please visit Linda's website by CLICKING HERE or on the photographs below:

joe cocker book 5

2) David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars tour at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby November 30, 1972

Bowie was already a star in Philadelphia thanks to the air play by the Philadelphia radio stations.  As a result, he was mobbed at the Tower Theater as if the Beatles were scheduled to play. 

The show itself was spectacular. Bowie made a grand entrance suspended on a wire from the ceiling.  The music was certainly Bowie at his best.  Bowie was so popular in Philadelphia that he played at the Tower for a week.  The best moments were captured on his double album “Live at the Tower Theater”.

3) Bruce Springsteen live at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr On February 5-7, 1974. 

 Actually you could pick any of the Main point appearances by Bruce in the early days. His first appearance was as the opener for Travis Shook on January 4-7, 1973.  Virtually no one saw him then, but by 1974, Bruce was a star in Philly.  The early band was extremely hot and Bruce was in top form. One of the shows was broadcast live over WMMR.  Bruce was even funny with his intros. For those who thought that the early Springsteen music was his best, this was the perfect show in the perfect setting of this legendary small club. .  

4) Bruce Springsteen at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby December 31, 1975.

What a way to end the year.  Bruce and the E Street Band played five straight nights before sold out crowds. The show was electric and the crowd was really into it. Even though this was a larger venue than the Main Point, it still seemed very intimate.  This was still before the rest of the world found out what a talent Springsteen was and Bruce went all out to show the crowd he appreciated their early love for the soon to be superstar.. 

5) Bob Dylan and the Band at the Spectrum January 6 & 7, 1974

It is very tempting as a huge Bob Dylan fan to make this the number one concert.  Many would agree.  Rolling Stone named it as one of the top 20 all time.  Bob was in top form and the Band showed why they belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even in a larger venue like the Spectrum, the performers were able to project to the adoring audience the true feelings of the songs. This just barely beat out the Bob Dylan at the Academy of Music show in the 60’s where it was just starting to do a half acoustic and half electric show and his very last appearance at the Spectrum where the crowd was singing along. A Bob Dylan concert is almost like a religious experience. Most of his shows could be in the top ten.

6) Jeff Beck and Ten Years After at the Electric Factory.  October 10 25 & 26, 1968

This was the first American tour for both Ten Years After and the Jeff Beck group with Rod Stewart. Opening night Ten Years After, who were second on the bill, went on first and were absolutely sensational.  The group was completely dazzled the crowd with their musical abilities.  After their performance I went back stage to talk to my friends in the band. I was talking to drummer Ric Lee when Jeff Beck started their act.  I heard this voice that was so different than any I had ever heard.  I asked Ric who he was.  He replied that is Rod Stewart who had been the lead singer for another English group called Steampacket.  I had never heard of them either, but that was about to change. Despite the fact that Rod and Jeff put on a great show, it was Ten Years After that stole the show, just like they did later at Woodstock. They were so good that Jeff Beck’s management wanted Ten Years After to be taken off the bill.  The promoter, Larry Magid refused and the bill stood for the next night. Ten Years After played before sold out crowds at the Spectrum, and were amazing as always, but nothing could top the small club experience.

7) Jimi Hendrix Experience and Woody’s Truck Stop at the Electric Factory February 27 & 28, 1968.

 The Electric Factory was only open for about three weeks when the Jimi Hendrix Experience performed. The stage was set up with a huge wall of Marshall amps.  Most were not even plugged in, but it didn’t matter.  It was the look that counted.  Just before Hendrix took the stage it was darken except for special lights that showed only the fluorescent flowers that Jimi had painted on his face and hands.  In the dark, that was about you could see was his face and hands moving across the guitar. The crowd was not disappointed with the entire show. What a showman! 

8) Captain Beefheart and Little Feat at the Irvine Auditorium February 4, 1972

 Every show that Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band did in Philadelphia was beyond belief.  This show barely beat out his show at the Spectrum where he played with John Sebastian in one of the strangest concert pairings ever.  Little Feat played well, but the leader and lead singer the late George Lowell completely turned off the crowd by saying things like everyone in Philadelphia was stupid to live here. The good Captain completely changed the mood. A startled crowd couldn’t even believe what they were hearing, let alone seeing.  The attire that the group wore was worth the price alone.  You just never knew what they would be wearing from bathrobes to dinner jackets.  Beefheart was fond of wearing a top hat with a badminton birdie sticking out of the very top of it. The music was very complex and Captain’s voice soaring up and down the octaves with such ease, gripped most of the audience all night.  

9) Wings at the Spectrum May 12 & 14, 1976

 Usually a larger venue like the Spectrum isn’t the best place to put on a “show”.  Much of what artists do in the way of showmanship is lost when so much of the crowd is so far from the stage, but not that night.  Not only did Paul’s personality and a tight band come across, the light show just left the crowd in total awe.  There were laser lights bouncing all over the walls of the building.  Most had never seen anything like it before and cheered loudly.  After the show I was supposed to meet Sir Paul, but after waiting for about an hour backstage, that fell through.  Not even the botched interview could spoil a great night of music.  

10) Faces  with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood at the Spectrum July 2, 1971

The first time Rod Stewart came to Philadelphia he voice carried his performance.  After that first show I went to a party where Rod was sitting on the floor not talking to anyone and looking like he didn’t have a friend in the world.  That was 1968.  What a difference in 1971!  Rod had an outstanding stage presence and was just as outgoing off stage. The Faces, led by the guitar work of Ron Wood, were super hot.  If you were there that night, you know why so many people would like to see a reunion tour with Rod and the Faces.   Rock at its best!


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