Share This Story!
Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about
Lindquist: 20 unforgettable nights across 20 years of writing about Indianapolis concerts
On this critic’s list of 20 unforgettable concerts in 20 years, transcendent moments and overall brilliance translate into staying power.
A link has been sent to your friend’s email address.
A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.
Join the Conversation
To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs
Kenny Chesney, Sam Hunt, Kevin Hart and Jimmy Buffett are four celebrities headed to Indianapolis in May. David Lindquist/IndyStar
Editor’s note: David Lindquist began writing about music for IndyStar on May 4, 1998. This report is one of an occasional series based on his 20 years on the job.
I worked my first IndyStar shift as pop music reporter 20 years ago today. My first Deer Creek show, starring Foo Fighters and the Ben Folds Five, happened 16 days later.
Deer Creek is now Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, and Foo Fighters and Folds (as a solo act) will be back in town this summer.
Other acts from the class of 1998 returning to Central Indiana this year include Ozzy Osbourne, Rod Stewart, the Dave Matthews Band, members of the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett and John Fogerty.
Sneak peek: Check out the new Phoenix Theatre
But none of these make my entirely subjective list of 20 “best” or “favorite” shows I’ve written about during the past two decades.
Through transcendent moments, historic relevance, technical achievement or overall brilliance, these are the shows with staying power:
The show: July 8, 2011, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The journey to No. 1 begins with smooth R&B icon Sade Adu. She sang mostly about love, yet made room for the social commentary of 1992’s “Pearl.” “There is a woman in Somalia scraping for pearls on the roadside,” Adu sang. “There’s a force stronger than nature that keeps her alive.” Inventive stage design — including trap doors, drapes, silhouettes, spotlights and video footage — made every tune on the 22-song program a singular viewing experience.
19. John Hiatt
The show: June 17, 2000, Indy Jazz Fest, IUPUI Library Lawn.
This ranks as my all-time favorite homecoming show. Master songwriter and Indianapolis native John Hiatt told his Indy Jazz Fest audience he felt like Jim Nabors at the 500-Mile Race. Founded in 1999, Indy Jazz Fest blazed for a few years as a multi-genre, multi-genre event at Military Park and the IUPUI Library Lawn. It’s the closest the city has flirted with having a successful homegrown festival to rival Louisville’s Forecastle or Cincinnati’s Bunbury.
18. Kanye West
The show: Aug. 25, 2016, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Regardless of what Kanye West is up to now, he gave Indianapolis the gift of being the opening date of his “Saint Pablo” tour. Spending the entirety of a two-hour performance ”flying” above the arena’s floor, West delivered a groundbreaking visual achievement. The format allowed a mosh-pit free-for-all in the general-admission section, where eager fans raised arms and jumped to get as close as possible to West as he moved around the room.
17. The Avett Brothers
The show: July 21, 2005, Midwest Music Summit, Monkey’s Tale.
It’s rare to bump into a little-known act that combines as much talent and hunger for success as what the Avett Brothers presented on the humble patio stage of Broad Ripple’s Monkey’s Tale. Anyone who attended this mixer to open the 2005 Midwest Music Summit can tell the tale. Bigger things were in store for the Avetts, who will perform Aug. 23 at Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center.
16. Bruce Springsteen
The show: May 31, 2006, Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center.
Touring to promote his folksy “Seeger Sessions” project, Bruce Springsteen deserved a bigger crowd at the Noblesville amphitheater. On the bright side, “Nebraska” gem “Open All Night” mashed a rapid spoken-word performance against a exuberant Big Band arrangement. By the time the clinching line of, “Hey, ho, rock ‘n’ roll, deliver me from nowhere,” arrived, we had a night to remember.
15. Florence & the Machine
The show: July 4, 2011, Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park.
London native Florence Welch unfurled ample charisma when playing an Independence Day show at the Lawn. In addition to force-of-nature vocals, Welch showcased dramatic dance moves and occasional percussion accents. Freelance fireworks in surrounding neighborhoods actually enhanced quiet portions of the show, as Welch’s voice is too big to be shaken.
The shows: July 25-26, 1999, Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center.
This two-night stand proved to be postive counter-programming to Woodstock 1999, which went up in violent flames the same weekend. Phish treated its faithful to renditions of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” and Prince’s “Purple Rain,” plus “Bathtub Gin,” “Axilla” and “Stash” from the band’s own catalog.
13. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The show: Sept. 2, 2006, Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center.
Dramatic give-and-take defined this stop of CSNY’s “Freedom of Speech” tour. More than a few audience members booed Neil Young’s politically charged songs from 2006 album “Living with War.” Of course, the activist/guitar hero and his partners were far too spirited to throw in the towel. During “The Restless Consumer,” Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and David Crosby chanted “Don’t need” before Young responded with phrases such as “no TV ad” and “no terror squad.”
12. Lady Gaga
The show: Nov. 5, 2017, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The most recent show on this list gave Lady Gaga a chance to highlight personal connections within a sensory-overload thrill ride. She dedicated “Edge of Glory” to two fans — or “Little Monsters” — in attendance: Emma Carroll, a cerebral palsy patient from Wisconsin who once helped diagnose Gaga’s chronic pain issues, and Danielle, who drives four hours daily to take Carroll to and from college. Later, Gaga picked up a letter a fan tossed onstage. Calling it a “Monstergram,” Gaga read the lengthy message from front-row concertgoer Dana, who wrote about a network of close friends she found because of Gaga’s music and its themes of acceptance and empowerment.
11. The Roots
The show: July 17, 2004, Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park.
It’s still difficult to believe the greatest live act in hip-hop history was relegated to opening this show for run-of-the-mill headliner 311. Anyway, the Roots arrived on fire by playing 30 minutes of uninterrupted music before then-bass player Leonard “Hub” Hubbard played a solo. MC Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter would not be denied: “I survive and rock ’cause I keep the crowd alive. And the texture of my voice is coarse and kind of hoarse and cut — like I’m throwing a thousand knives.”
10. John Mellencamp
The show: Sept. 7, 2003, Farm Aid, Germain Amphitheater, Columbus, Ohio.
Oddly enough, I had to make an out-of-state road trip to catch Indiana rock star John Mellencamp at his best. This Farm Aid performance showcased rural blues songs Mellencamp recorded for his “Trouble No More” album, including covers of Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway” and Son House’s “Death Letter.” On slide guitar, Andy York crafted neo-classic blues with a serrated edge. Mellencamp’s voice filled the Germain Amphitheater and may have traveled much of the way back to Indianapolis on I-70.
The show: April 12, 2004, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
There was more than hype to 2004’s most-celebrated comeback. In addition to re-embracing the brilliance of “Purple Rain” two decades after the album’s release, Prince needed only his voice and an acoustic guitar to showcase the rockabilly roots of “Delirious” and the pop sensibility of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.”
8. Keith Urban
The show: Aug. 21, 2005, Indiana State Fairgrounds.
It’s not every day Indiana State Police officers stand in a perfect line but then break into a gallop to protect a musician from his fans. But that anecdote describes the magnetism of Keith Urban on closing night of the 2005 Indiana State Fair. The country-pop musician played guitar and sang onstage, across the racetrack, in the Grandstand and back during a program highlighted by crowd-pleasers ”Days Go By,” “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” and “You Look Good in My Shirt.”
7. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
The show: July 23, 1999, Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center.
Tom Petty never faltered in Indianapolis. “Sometimes I think I just live to play that song here,” he told a Ruoff crowd in 2010, speaking of course about “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and its many Indiana references. I selected a 1999 show for this list because I was involved in an I-69 car accident that caused a traffic snarl and ultimately a delay in the show’s start (which brought an equally amazing performance by supporting act Lucinda Williams). Thanks, again, to the police officer who gave me a lift to the show.
The show: May 7, 2015, Murat Theatre in Old National Centre.
Among many standout Wilco performances through the years, this one is special because it almost didn’t happen. The Chicago band originally canceled its 2015 show because of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy. A legislative revision, which eliminated potential erosion of LGBT protections, prompted a change in Wilco’s stance. Once the music began, vocalist-guitarist Jeff Tweedy grasped onto a theme of unity. “A lot of people singing together is one of the best sounds ever,” he said following a “Jesus, Etc.” sing-along.
5. Bob Dylan
The show: July 15, 2007, Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park.
Hey, good luck predicting what you’ll get when Bob Dylan performs. In hindsight, I can verify he slayed at this show that doubled as a 15th birthday celebration for radio station WTTS-FM (92.3). A dream setlist included “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” “I Shall be Released” and a stripped-down “Tangled Up in Blue.” Any detractor who theorizes Dylan doesn’t care about what he’s singing didn’t hear the weighty conclusion of “Blue,” in which the narrator and his star-crossed lover felt the same but saw things “from a different point of view.”
4. Paul McCartney
The show: July 14, 2013, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
This Beatle upheld his reputation as a towering talent while also proving to be an excellent caretaker of his matchless musical legacy. The show included “Paperback Writer,” a 1966 tune sounding elastic and fresh; “Blackbird,” an elegant message of encouragement written for Americans seeking civil rights in the late 1960s; and the youngster-friendly “All Together Now” just for kicks.
3. The Rolling Stones
The show: July 4, 2015, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A lot was riding on this show: the Rolling Stones hadn’t performed locally since 1994; Indianapolis Motor Speedway was hosting its first concert on a non-race weekend; and it’s hard to imagine a more heavily marketed event. No worries. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood came through with flying colors on Independence Day. The decades melted away when the Stones showed off their skills as a small country & western combo on “Let It Bleed” and roared as masters of epic guitar riffs on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction),” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Brown Sugar.”
2. The White Stripes
The show: July 9, 2002, the Vogue.
Remember when the White Stripes somehow repackaged a style nearly a century old and sold it to twentysomethings who wouldn’t know Son House from Sun Studios? As a showman, Jack White comes across as a precocious child actor who delivers the goods for a candy reward. But he surely extracted the drama from Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Marlene Dietrich’s “Look Me Over Closely.” More than anything, 2002-era White wanted to be seen as Robert Johnson, rolling into town with hellhounds on his trail. To his credit, he stayed in character. He didn’t treat hit single “Fell in Love with a Girl” any differently than any other song. It was anonymously tucked in the middle of a 26-song performance, with no introductory thanks for requesting the song at MTV or Alt 103.3.
1. Roger Waters
The show: June 11, 2012, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Topping my list is this presentation of “The Wall,” one of the biggest concert spectacles ever dreamed up — but also an examination of a vulnerable and feeble species. Vocalist-bass player Roger Waters put himself under the microscope when writing the landmark Pink Floyd album of 1979. “The Wall” is a well-organized audit of a man who’s a mess. Our despondent rock star lost his father to World War II and later lost his ability to relate to his fans. In between are the women who contributed to the wall inside his head. At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Waters flourished when singing a song about a parent (“Mother”) and a song about a lover (“Don’t Leave Me Now”). “Mother” unfolded as a clever production number, with Waters singing, while 1980 footage of the same performance blanketed a video screen and the show’s actual wall (still partially constructed but with white cardboard bricks reaching three stories high and stretching across the arena by intermission). “Don’t Leave Me Now” featured Waters mostly roaming a bare margin of stage in front of the nearly complete wall. He poured himself into the dissonant, experimental tune.
IndianapoLIST: Obsessed with Indianapolis? Subscribe to our newsletter
Call IndyStar reporter David Lindquist at (317) 444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.
IndyStar subscriptions: Support local journalism
- 17 New Year's Eve concert choices for ringing in 2018 in Milwaukee
- 12 White Linen Night in the Heights parties (and one Uber promo code) worth braving the crowds for
- Lucas Oil Stadium: What was projected, what happened and what's ahead the next 10 years
- Winter concerts in Phoenix: Katy Perry, P!nk, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, Florida Georgia Line
- Phoenix concert news: Phoenix Lights, Charlie Puth, G-Eazy, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Tyler
- Charles Manson was penpals with Indianapolis ‘angel,’ but he never asked this question
- Charles Manson was penpals with Indianapolis ‘angel,’ but he never asked 'the' question
- 15 photos of the USS Indianapolis, whose World War II sinking started the deadliest shark attack in history
- The 11 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend
- This week in 1975 The Summit opened for concerts and basketball
- After final concert, founder of Portland Chamber Music Festival happily passing the baton
- Pink stops show mid-concert to hug hurting teen
Lindquist: 20 unforgettable nights across 20 years of writing about Indianapolis concerts have 2404 words, post on www.indystar.com at May 4, 2018. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.