It's easier than ever to relive some of the Tampa Bay area's best concerts by listening to fans' bootleg recordings on the Internet.
By JAY CRIDLIN
Published June 13, 2006
Tampa Bay has hosted some amazing concerts over the years.
The first Florida performances by Bruce Springsteen and Nirvana. A rain-soaked and riot-marred concert by Led Zeppelin. Several early shows by three young punks called Green Day.
Today, thanks to the Internet, you can relive them all. It’s never been easier for you, the average music fan, to locate a bootleg recording of your all-time favorite concert, right down to the artist’s drunken, localized stage banter, and upload it to your iPod.
This, we think, is why the Internet was invented.
So recently, we hit the Google trail in search of bootlegs from legendary Tampa Bay area concerts. We consulted live music database sites, and enlisted the help, via e-mail, of fans and collectors from Nebraska to Montreal to Paris to China. Not every show on our concert checklist came through, but we did unearth some amazing stuff.
With the summer concert season upon us, we’re looking back at five legendary local shows, all of which were bootlegged for posterity by passionate, forward-thinking fans.
Our Top 5 past concerts:
Tampa Jai-Alai Fronton | Nov. 10, 1975
Why it matters: A month after the 26-year-old Boss made the covers of Time and Newsweek, this sold-out show in support of his legendary album Born to Run became his first known performance in Florida. Need we say more?
The set: Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Spirit in the Night, The E Street Shuffle, She’s the One, Born to Run, 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City, Backstreets, Kitty’s Back, Jungleland, Rosalita, The Detroit Medley, Quarter to Three.
Stage banter: Springsteen reportedly told a great story about how the E Street Band formed just before The E Street Shuffle. Sadly, on our bootleg, this track is too distorted to make out what he says. Later, though, Springsteen acknowledges the historic nature of the show: “This is our first gig ever in Florida, and I thank you all very much for coming down.”
Best moment: When Springsteen opened with a stark Thunder Road, accompanied only by a piano, harmonica and what sounds like a xylophone, it set a high standard for the night.
Reviews: “All that shuck and jive about the Springsteen 'hype’ — for once the record companies have put their money behind deserving talent. If you think that sentiment smells of bandwagon-hopping, you’ve never seen Springsteen in concert.” (Bob Ross, St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 12, 1975)
Sources: www.brucespringsteen.it, www.springsteenliveinconcert.com, www.brucebase.org.uk
Tampa Stadium | June 3, 1977
Why it matters: The concert was halted due to rain after just three songs, and when it was announced the show wouldn’t go on, about 3,000 of the 70,000 fans in attendance began to riot. Bottles flew, barricades were ripped down, fans were handcuffed and about 50 people, including nearly two dozen cops, were reported injured. The band fled the stadium in a limo flanked by police.
The set: The Song Remains the Same, The Rover/Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine.
Stage banter: “We want you to bear with us because there seems to be some water falling on the electrical equipment,” a roadie says from the stage. “So we’re gonna give it a 15-minute break, are you cool? A 15-minute break, we’re gonna try it.” They tried, but apparently, it didn’t work.
Best moment: The fallout. A furious Tampa Mayor William F. Poe actually banned Led Zeppelin from the city. “I’ll just have to wait and see whether it’s advisable to bring any rock group here,” said Tampa Sports Authority chairman Nelson Italiano. (True enough, the stadium banned most concerts for the next decade.) Meanwhile, in the days after the riot, when it wasn’t clear if the concert would be rescheduled, members of the band reportedly passed the time by taking their families to Disney World. You can’t make this stuff up.
Reviews: “Never in 10 years of active concert-going, have I felt harmonious vibrations become waves of sheer terror so quickly.
. . . I saw soaked, panic-stricken people trapped desperately between pounding police sticks and the immobile throng behind them.” (Bob Ross, St. Petersburg Times, June 6, 1977)
Sources: www.robertplanthomepage.com, www.thetradersden.org
Tampa Stadium | Dec. 5, 1987
Why it matters: U2 has always seemed larger than life, but never was this more true than following the release of The Joshua Tree, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year. The ensuing tour was documented in the film Rattle & Hum. The Tampa show, featuring opening acts Los Lobos and Buckwheat Zydeco, took place in frigid weather before a crowd of more than 50,000.
The set: Where the Streets Have No Name, I Will Follow, Trip Through Your Wires, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, One Tree Hill, Gloria, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Exit, In God’s Country, People Get Ready, Bad, October, New Year’s Day, Pride (In the Name of Love), Bullet the Blue Sky, Running to Stand Still, With or Without You, Spanish Eyes, 40.
Stage banter: Bono being Bono: “Well, we’re a long way from Ireland. But I know we got some Irish people here. Those of you who are not Irish, of course, we make you honorary Irishmen and women for the night. Some people have been talking to me about, they say, 'Bono, your accent is changing. You’re starting to sound like an American.’ I said, 'What do you mean?’ And they say to me, 'Well, you keep saying words that you’ve never said before, like “party” or something like that.’ What is this thing, 'party,’ anyway? A number of things. Like, people come up and say, 'Bono, you’re really intense.’ What does that mean? In Dublin city, if somebody came up and said you’re really intense, you’d just smack ’em one in the gob. But I take it over here it’s a compliment, is that right? Well, I’m very proud to be Irish, but I’m not necessarily proud of everything that 'Irish’ stands for. This is Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
Best moment: A joyful singalong at the beginning of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, in which Bono’s voice is nearly drowned out by the audience.
Reviews: “The cold weather seemed a fitting environment for U2’s no-nonsense, dead serious mixture of politics, dramatics, passion and seamless playing. . . . Bono’s reckless, jaunty stage style included long skipping jigs across the full breadth of the wide stage; he strutted and flailed and flung his head back.” (Eric Snider, St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 7, 1987)
Sources: www.u2tours.com, www.wherethesitehasnoname.com
The Masquerade | May 5, 1990
Why it matters: Nirvana had just started generating national heat when it came to Ybor City’s old Masquerade for their first known performance in Florida. The band’s landmark album Nevermind was more than a year away, but tracks like Polly and In Bloom had already debuted live. This was also the only concert Nirvana ever played in the Tampa Bay area; the band never returned once Nevermind made them alternative rock heroes.
The set: School, Floyd The Barber, Love Buzz, Dive, Scoff, Spank Thru, Big Cheese, Molly’s Lips, About A Girl, Been A Son, Stain, Negative Creep, Blew.
Stage banter: Kurt Cobain didn’t say much between songs. But bassist Krist Novoselic provides enough commentary for the entire band, complaining about the club’s warm beer, pointing out Cobain’s new guitar amp, blowing kisses to the crowd and telling a rambling story about a homeless man asking him for change on the street. “Thank you all so very much,” Novoselic tells the crowd. “I really mean it, you’re very nice people.”
“Oh, you’re too modest,” someone in the crowd shouts.
“Woo! Tampa! Woo!” shouts someone else.
Best moment: Nirvana played a couple of songs that even casual fans might recognize, including About A Girl, which became an acoustic hit on the band’s MTV Unplugged. Cobain’s guitar work stands out on the rare track Spank Thru, but the most energetic song is Breed, a raging punk blast that later surfaced on Nevermind.
Reviews: “I remember thinking that for as big as they were going to become, at that point the crowd was kind of smallish,” said Jeff Wood of Tampa, the drummer for opening act Forgotten Apostles. “It was more of, 'Hey, these guys are on Sub Pop (Nirvana’s Seattle label),’ not 'Hey, these guys have a No. 1 album. . . . (Cobain) kept to himself that night. I didn’t really care, because how was I to know that he was going to turn into Kurt Cobain, martyr to millions?”
Sources: www.livenirvana.com, www.nirvanaliveguide.com, eyewitness accounts. Julie Garisto contributed to this report.
Tampa | late ’80s/early ’90s
Why it matters: Before Dookie made them superstars, Green Day played a handful of shows in the Tampa Bay area, like a legendary concert at the Brass Mug in 1993, and a 1994 show at Jannus Landing that became the Japanese-only EP Live Tracks. But two concerts stand out, because some heady Tampa fans thought to bring video cameras. Footage from a show thought to be from 1989 at the Paint Factory near downtown Tampa is one of the earliest circulating videos of singer Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt onstage together. Another video shot at Ybor City’s Star Club around 1991 features “new drummer” Tre Cool. The guys were skinny, sweaty and shirtless, but they still sounded tight.
1989 higlights: Before the show, then-drummer Al Sobrante tells the crowd that during a drive to Thoroughbred Music on Hillsborough Avenue, he left his black Converse sneakers in the back window of someone’s red Hyundai.
“If you could come up and just bring them to me sometime during the set, that would be great, because I need my shoes,” he says. At the end, Green Day’s set is cut short by a man Armstrong calls “officer.” Armstrong leaves the stage, but not before announcing that the band is selling T-shirts in the back for $6 apiece.
1991 highlights: Fans join the band onstage in Ybor’s hot, raucous Star Club. Armstrong introduces Tre Cool, who disappears mid-set for several minutes. But he returns to harmonize with Armstrong on a guitars-only Words I Might Have Ate. Armstrong praises the devotion of Green Day’s Tampa fans, but can’t help complaining about the heat: “Man, I’m hot. Welcome to Florida. Get eaten by an alligator. With an orange in its mouth.”
Sources: www.punkrockvideos.com, www.punksite.com, www.greenday.ic.cz
Five more we can’t believe we missed
1 | THE SMITHS
Sept. 10, 1986 | Bayfront Center, St. Petersburg
How cool is it that the kings of mope-rock played St. Pete the same year Cocoon won two Oscars? It’s even cooler when you realize that this was — gasp — the Smiths’ final U.S. concert.
2 | PEARL JAM
April 22, 1992 | Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg
This was one of the planet’s best live bands at the height of its Ten-era greatness.
3 | TORI AMOS
Aug. 15, 1992 | State Theatre, St. Petersburg
The chanteuse’s first major concert in the Tampa Bay area took place in the intimate State Theatre, in support of her album Little Earthquakes. Early in the show, she spent time mingling with and fielding questions from fans.
4 | NO DOUBT
Oct. 20, 1992 | The Brass Mug, Tampa
Years before No Doubt’s MTV breakthrough, Gwen Stefani and company stopped by Tampa’s tiny Brass Mug. The band hasn’t returned to Tampa since.
5 | EMINEM
April 25, 1999 | Jannus Landing
Before Slim Shady became hip-hop’s most polarizing superstar, he was just another white rapper with a questionable dye job. By the time he came to St. Pete in 1999, My Name Is was already leaping up the charts.
Times researcher Mary Mellstrom contributed to this report.Jay Cridlin can be reached at (727) 893-8336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Times researcher Mary Mellstrom contributed to this report.