My friend Chad Canfield, host and producer of the excellent podcast, The Canman Show, recently asked fans of the show on Facebook to tell him about their most memorable concert experience. Read those postings here.
Chad's request seems to have been inspired by taking his daughters to see Miley Cyrus in Des Moines, but let's not hold that against him.
Being in the media, and an omnivorous music fan, I've seen hundreds of concerts, of course. The unexpected appearance of a giant star makes this one my most memorable.
The year was 1979, I was in between my freshman and sophomore years of college, working a summer job in Council Bluffs, the town where I grew up. I bought tickets to see America in Omaha's Civic Auditorium, with a friend and co-worker, Steve Haberman.
I wasn't a huge America fan, and was actually more interested in seeing the opening band, a new group called McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, who had just released their debut album. I say new, but these guys had been around and had an exceptional pedigree. The astute music fan has already recognized Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and Chris Hillman as founding members of the Byrds, along with the legendary David Crosby.
I liked the MCH album, and was also intrigued to see what Byrds chestnuts (or Chestnut Mares) they might pull out during their set.
In retrospect, I must have been even more of a fanboy than I really remember, as I chose this concert over seeing Eric Clapton, who was playing a day or two later in the same venue.
So, the concert arrives, my friend Steve and I have sits in the first balcony with a good view of the stage. There's a skinny, middle aged man with brown hair and a bear a couple of rows behind us, who we are sure is an incognito Clapton.
The MCH set is good, including their minor Top 40 hit, "Don't You Write Her Off," but it was the encore that made it memorable. My sharp-eyed friend picked up some commotion just offstage and said "let's go to the main floor."
So, we run downstairs, and arrive in front of the stage just to hear Roger McGuinn say, "Here's a great old song, and a great friend to help us out... Eric Clapton!"
Wearing a faded jean jacket, Clapton walked onstage. He was clean-shaven, so was not the fellow who had been sitting behind us. In retrospect, I don't know why we would have thought Eric Clapton would have been sitting in the balcony, anyway, but it was the seventies and it is possible our thought processes were somewhat cloudy.
Clapton buckled the strap of a Fender strat around his shoulders, and proceeded to rip through a torrid version of "Eight Miles High."
We would have listened to that band jam all night, but unfortunately the headliners wanted to go on, so the ex-Byrds and EC left the stage. We went back to our seats to hear an unremarkable set from America.
Thirty-plus years later, that 15 minutes still ranks as my most memorable concert experience.
On an unrelated note, I see that Miley Cyrus Fan Club is now following me on Twitter. Obviously, typing that name in the original FB posting was a mistake.