Stories of concerts are music to readers' ears

It's the writers, not the musicians, who are the stars of The Show I'll Never Forget, an engaging collection of essays retelling memorable concert experiences.

More often than not, the 50 stories shed more light on the writer than on the subject.

Anyone expecting this to be a book chock-full of concert reviews will be disappointed.

That can be frustrating, especially when the performance being written about is worthy of a review. But essays like the hypnotic piece by John Albert tangentially about a Black Flag punk concert from 1979 can make you forget about the music altogether.

Sometimes what makes a concert experience memorable isn't what happens on stage. Take Tracy Chevalier's essay on the backstage environment at a 1977 Queen concert in Landover, Md.:

"The contrast between the sparkling theatricality of the concert and the gritty reality of the backstage, with its dirty concrete, anonymous faces and unfulfilled dreams, turned my stomach, and almost ruined the night."

When Heidi Julavits writes about seeing Rush in 1985, she acknowledges that while the concert was memorable, she remembers very little about it.

There are nice little nuggets hidden throughout the book, which is organized chronologically by the date of the show. One of the best is at the end of Dani Shapiro's essay on her audition to appear in a Bruce Springsteen music video. She didn't get the gig, but someone who went on to be a famous TV actress did.

Subjects range from the famous (The Beatles, Miles Davis, David Bowie) to the obscure (the Lounge Lizards, Joe Maneri and Einsturzende Neubauten). So do the writers, which include poet and novelist Ishmael Reed, graphic novelist Harvey Pekar, and Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket.

Edited by Sean Manning, The Show I'll Never Forget is a clever concept that delivers. And even if the concert being written about doesn't turn you on, keep reading. The real story being told just might.

BY THE BOOK

TITLE: The Show I'll Never Forget (Da Capo Press, 305 pages)

EDITED BY: Sean Manning

COST: $16.95, paperback original

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