With social distancing putting a hold on live events, I am talking a walk down memory lane to reflect on the 10 most memorable concerts I have seen. This is not a list of the ten best shows. Just the ones that have left the most indelible memories.
Headliners define a show, but a great opening act feels like a bonus buy for concert tickets. On July 10, 2016 I caught a bill loaded with a timeless headliner and two unforgettable openers. Sharon Jones and Trombone Shorty opened for Hall & Oates at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ. That lineup and a surprise guest added up to be money well spent.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings opened the night. Sharon Jones was in the third year of a cancer diagnosis that would take her life just four months later. Watching her was more than a bucket list item. It was a privilege to see her take the stage with conviction. Even if her set was brief, the image of her determination to perform has resonated long after the last note faded.
Trombone Shorty was sandwiched in between the two iconic figures in the lineup. His band more than proved they belonged. Their New Orleans Jazz fusion was an intense outpouring of energy. The set was an exhaustive listening experience that felt like the peak of an already great evening, but headliner Hall & Oates had a trick up their sleeve to cement the show as a truly great live experience.
After the first two acts, all I wanted to do was sit and bask in the choruses of hits like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “She’s Gone,” and “Sara Smile.” Hall & Oates delivered exactly that. Instead of mixing in a ton of B-Sides, the entire main set was a hit parade of their best songs. Despite only being 11 songs long, there were so many chart toppers that it was hard to argue with the run of slam dunks.
After the first encore wrapped, people began to stream for the exits as Hall & Oates came back on the stage. Daryl Hall teased a surprise guest who had written one of the biggest hits in the world. As he spoke, my mind was racing with collaborative possibilities, but none of them were right. Not one person in the audience was expecting Chubby Checker to come out on stage.
The surprise saw fans reverse course and rush towards unoccupied space. Then-74-year-old Chubby Checker walked on stage like it was 1960 all over again. The band kicked off “The Twist.” Suddenly thousands of people packed the aisles and danced like the former chart-topper was still the latest dance craze.
Hall & Oates have written some of the greatest pop hits ever recorded, but the novelty of Chubby Checker twisting away on stage sparked instant joy in the BB&T Pavilion crowd. After a couple of minutes, the song wrapped and Checker walked off the stage. He only had one song to deliver and he owned the moment.
The Philadelphia native brought down the house in a flash. The random appearance made it hard to put together exactly what just happened. Without being able to top the collaboration, Hall & Oates appropriately sent the audience home with a cover of The Delfonics “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time).”