It was 2011, and I had waited 34 years to spend a night with Prince. The energy grew as the crowd waited for the main attraction. There was an electric buzz in the air at Time Warner Cable Arena, now the Spectrum Center, that night. Thousands of people waiting on the edge of their seats, as the anticipation built. When Prince did finally make his way onto the stage, the eruption was deafening.
Unfortunately, my excitement about seeing him, coupled with it being one of the few nights I had been out since my daughter was born, led to too much partying. Way too much.
But the next morning, I realized that watching one of my musical idols with some of my favorite people on the planet brought me the kind of unadulterated magical joy that even one of the worst hangovers of my life could not diminish.
Although Charlotte may not immediately come to mind when you think of great music cities, the Queen City has played host to some memorable concerts.
After Prince, here are the top 5 concerts I have seen in Charlotte:
(1) Lyle Lovett and His Very Large Band: Knights Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, Aug. 19, 2015: When Lovett sang “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior”, this heathen had a religious experience.
(2) Chris Stapleton: PNC Music Pavilion, May 13, 2017: Stapleton is incredible, but this one ranks so high because I pulled off a surprise for my husband’s 40th birthday and some of our closet friends came in to surprise him. Also, party bus.
(3) Bruno Mars: Spectrum Center, Sept. 14, 2017: I scored free suite tickets 10 hours before the show. I had to jump through an extraordinary number of flaming hoops to make it happen, but it was totally worth it. Mars is a consummate entertainer.
(4) My Morning Jacket: Uptown Amphitheatre, Aug. 25, 2012: Start with a mix of some of my favorite people, including one who was in town all the way from California, add a sprinkle of the melodic voice of My Morning Jacket’s lead singer, Jim James, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for an amazing night out. Even a quick thunderstorm on top of having a belligerent drunk guy trying to bully me into not calling the police after hitting my car could not take away from this special summer night.
(5) Beyonce: Time Warner Cable Arena, July 29, 2007: Uhh, it was Beyonce. That is enough of an explanation.
I also conducted a highly scientific survey — as in, I surveyed people on Facebook — to find out their best and worst concert experiences in Charlotte.
Best of the best
Prince landed on this list several times. You know, because Prince.
“You KNOW Prince was mine! I remember it vividly,” Mary Lewis wrote.
More than one person mentioned the dynamic performance of the Courtney Love-fronted band, Hole, at the now closed Ritz on Independence Boulevard in 1995.
“Jay-Z, by far! We took our son for his 18th birthday and had awesome seats — not that we ever sat in them,” Wendy Whitt said. “I still tell the story of Eric’s most classic line ever, ‘What are all these corporate dudes doing here?’ — AKA all the white men in jeans, blazers and loafers. I had to remind him that all those ‘corporate dudes’ are our age and got through college on Jay-Z too.”
Should have been better
The Material Girl’s 2015 concert angered a whole bunch of people.
“Madonna charged over $250+, at face value, for mid-grade seats.” Catherine Carl said. “They weren’t nose-bleed, but they weren’t on the floor either. She had no opening band, and she didn’t come on until 11:30 p.m.!”
It’s a toss-up
Proving that music is subjective, concerts like Stevie Wonder and Neil Diamond found their way into both the best and worst columns.
“In Charlotte, nothing can top seeing Neil Diamond in December 2008, while wearing sequined maternity jeans. I was seven-and-a-half-months pregnant with baby number two,” Amy George wrote.
“The man could barley move, and there were tons of elderly folks around,” Erin Stephens said of the Neil Diamond concert. “As there should be, but there was a large stench of Bengay in the air. “Also, no standing. I mean, the man coined songs that people love to scream at sporting events, but there was no standing or dancing with this crowd.”
“My least favorite was Stevie Wonder. 45 minutes late then blah blah blah, then 40 minute intermission,” Priscilla Norris said.
“Stevie Wonder was one of the greatest concerts for me,” Jo E. Poluszek responded.
The late Tom Petty said, “Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.”
It sure does, Tom!
Here’s to everyone enjoying more musical magic in the Queen City.
Photo: Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP