In his swan song Chicago Sun-Times post earlier this month, pop music critic Jim Derogatis choose to end his time at the daily newspaper by listing his favorite concerts. It’s a question I’ve always wanted to know the answer to, so let’s see… what are the best concerts that Dero has ever seen?
I’ve enjoyed Dero’s reviews over the years and on May 5th he said goodbye to his duties as the Chicago Sun-Times rock critic.
I liked his choice of farewell because I’ve long wondered what Dero would list as his most memorable concert experiences. His list does answer my question, but it also makes me wonder why he picked these shows out of hundreds of others he’s seen and covered.
As he notes, Dero organized his list “…chronologically.. and I chose them without consulting my notes or archives until after the fact: These are the shows that instantly spring to mind whenever I’m asked, “What are the best concerts you’ve ever seen?””
Here are my favorite four from Dero’s list:
Barry White at the Chicago Theatre, 7/22/95
The idea of a guilty pleasure is a Catholic concept I left behind with my altar boy’s frock. I will not apologize for loving R&B’s immortal Round Mound of Sound, who not only played all of his enduring make-out hits with his 30-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra on this memorable night, but did it while flanked by two lingerie-clad dancers gyrating in massive champagne glasses.
Nirvana at the Aragon Ballroom, 10/23/93
At the first of what turned out to be Kurt Cobain’s last shows in Chicago, a night that included transcendent versions of “Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam,” the song we’d come to know a decade later as “You Know You’re Right” and pretty much every other tune you’d want to hear the most important band of its generation perform ended with him climbing to the top of a towering prop tree, teetering 15 feet above the stage, then diving to the floor. It was electrifying and unforgettable.
Kanye West at the House of Blues, 2/11/04
A day after the release of his debut album, the soon-to-be-superstar proved to be as exciting onstage as he was in the studio, rolling through all of “The College Dropout” with backing from a then up-and-coming keyboardist named John Legend, hip-hop violinist Miri Ben Ari and his mentor and fellow South Sider, Common.
The Flaming Lips at Metro, 2/18/94
In the months after the release of “Transmissions from the Satellite Heart” in June 1993, one of the best albums in the Flaming Lips’ career was withering and dying on the vine–until Chicago took it to heart, spiking sales, turning “She Don’t Use Jelly” into a major hit and saving the band’s career. Oklahoma’s psychedelic-pop madmen performed this free show to say thank you. The old two-guitar, bass and drums lineup never sounded better–and it still puts the balloons- and plushies-adorned spectacles of recent years to shame.
My Favorite Books By Derogatis
Of those four, the Barry White blurb induced the biggest grin for me. It’s classic Dero. And it’s no surprise that The Flaming Lips made the list because Derogatis has long since been a fan of the Lips and chronicled the band’s SXSW Parking Lot #4 Experience and other moments in their history in his book Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma’s Fabulous Flaming Lips.
Dero has also written a book about legendary rock critic Lester Bang’s called “Let it Blurt .” When I read the book, I got to learn about several of Bang’s favorite live music moments, which included setting up a typewriter and furiously writing a concert review on stage as the band was playing. And I’m sure in one way or another, Dero’s concert reviews were were influenced and inspired by the time he spent talking with Bang’s and his family.
I wish Dero well in his continued work on Sound Opinions and in his new music writing adventures with Vocalo.org and as a staff member at Columbia College in Chicago. Check out Dero’s Sun-Times farewell and his full list of concerts here.