‘You should have been there.’ The 10 most epic Midland concerts of all time
“This place, I’ve never played any place this beautiful before,” Mitski said Sunday night. Her opening slot for the Pixies fell nearly 90 years after the Midland first opened it’s doors.
Since I’ve been catching shows at The Midland, I’ve heard that same sentiment from countless musicians about the theater. It is our crown jewel venue here in Kansas City, and as we celebrate its birthday this week, lets take a moment to thank the concert gods that it hasn’t been torn down to make room for more parking lots and luxury condos.
Over the years I’ve seen about 120 concerts and a couple hundred different bands at the Midland. I’ve been fortunate to have a great relationship with the venue and the crew there. Ink even had the opportunity to use the venue for Middle of the Map in 2016, a special weekend that has become even more notable with the passing of Charles Bradley a year later.
Way before I was going to concerts there, the Midland used to be a movie theater, or, as they called it back then, a “movie palace.” And indeed it was. Years ago, I took my mom to see Julie Andrews speak. My mom told me the first time she saw Andrews’ “The Sound of Music” was at The Midland as a young girl, so that went full circle.
It should also be said, that even a beautiful setting like The Midland is nothing without the people running it, so to my colleagues there—Mike, Katie, Neill, Candy, Isaac, Chris, Casey, Kent and before him Larry, Josh and his crew—cheers everyone and happy 90th!
To celebrate its 90th birthday I thought I’d turn my obsession of list making into a “top ten favorite shows that I’ve seen there” list. It sounded like a good idea at first, but editing myself to just ten shows was tortuous.
Here’s my top ten favorite shows at The Midland, accompanied by the review from The Kansas City Star:
11/09/09 Leonard Cohen
Cohen skipped onto the stage of the Midland theater in the wake of the band of backup singers and musicians who nearly stole his own show from him. He would tip his hat a few dozen times and deliver 27 songs, a few dozen thank-yous, one hallelujah, a few droll wisecracks and a reading of one of his own poems that aroused one of the spine-tingliest moments of the year. -- Timothy Finn
11/08/11 Paul Simon/Punch Brothers
This show was an odyssey in more ways than one. For two hours Tuesday night, Paul Simon took his audience inside the sold-out Midland Theater on a journey through a song catalog that goes back more than 40 years and that visits the music of several continents. -- T.F.
6/18/14 Nick Cave/Warpaint
The mood in the theater after the show was a mix of awe and deep satisfaction. Some reacted like God really had been in the house, others like we’d seen something for the first time that we’re not likely to see too soon again. — T.F.
8/18/14 Jack White/Curtis Harding
You can’t fake charisma; you either have it or you don’t. Jack White has it, in abundance. Monday night, he filled the Midland theater, from wall to wall, from floor to rafters, and delivered a free-wheeling two-hour show that no doubt will long be remembered by the 3,000 or so in attendance. — T.F.
8/20/15 Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear/Luluc
They closed with “Yellow Taxi,” another jaunty country/folk ditty embroidered with some playful guitar work and lacquered with tight harmonies. The crowd sang along boisterously, like it had known the song for years, giving a warm hometown embrace to a duo that, in less than a year, has left similar impressions around the globe. — T.F.
Almost every song laid bare its blueprint and evoked the ensuing styles and eras that Kraftwerk so heavily influenced, from post-punk to techno, hip-hop and synth-pop. This show was a retrospective, and the quaint visuals reinforced that feel, but most of the music felt as contemporary and innovative as ever. — T.F.
10/22/15 and 2/13/17 Run The Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P danced like no one was watching during the Kansas City debut of Run the Jewels. Fans’ communal chants and synchronized hand gestures resembled the antics of a crowd at a rowdy political rally. The duo fed them plenty of red meat. — Bill Brownlee, 2015
5/7/16 Charles Bradley/Aimee Mann at Middle of the Map Fest
Bradley was once a James Brown impersonator, and it comes out in his own shows. The title track to his new album — a Black Sabbath song — was a highlight. So was “Ain’t It A Sin,” one of a few church moments. Unlike church, however, this service went by too quickly. — T.F.
9/21/16 Chance The Rapper
Chance the Rapper’s concert at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Wednesday provided a capacity audience of more than 2,000 with a religious experience. Not only did the Chicago hip-hop artist’s soul-cleansing outing possess the sort of life-affirming excitement generated by a rarefied performance, much of the 85-minute show was overtly dedicated to spiritual salvation. — B.B.
10/12/16 Sigur Rós
Songs arouse various emotional reactions: sorrow, melancholy, grief, bliss, redemption, serenity, love. A few adopted sexual pulses and rhythms, starting slowly and gently, climbing to a frenzy, a crescendo, then easing into a resolution, an afterglow. By the time the band was taking its second bow, applauding its appreciative audience, most people in the place, band included, looked like they’d been on a long, thrilling, emotional joyride, a spectacle indeed. — T.F.
Here’s the other shows I’ve seen at The Midland:
4/14/98 Sarah McLachlan/Lisa Loeb
9/14/03 Lewis Black/Dave Attell/Mitch Hedberg
09/15/05 Willie Nelson
09/16/08 Anthony Bourdain
10/28/08 Alexi Murdoch opening for Alanis Morissette
11/01/08 Video Games Live
11/24/08 Smashing Pumpkins
02/27/09 Louis CK
09/12/09 John Prine/Carrie Rodriguez
10/25/09 The Pogues/Detroit Cobras
02/19/10 Buddy Guy/BB King
06/06/11 Sleigh Bells/Neon Indian
11/03/11 The Latenight Callers/Sheppa/Quixotic/Andy Grammar
11/12/11 Blind Boys of Alabama/Sara & Chris Watkins
11/13/11 Sara Swenson/David George
12/5/11 Florence and the Machine/Two Door Cinema Club/Cowboy Indian Bear
12/6/11 Soft Reeds/Surfer Blood/The Naked and Famous
12/7/11 Matt & Kim/Company of Thieves/Antennas up
12/16/11 Anthony Bourdain
4/24/12 Evanescence/Waiting For Signal
7/17/12 Fiona Apple
8/23/12 Pretty Lights
11/1/12 Snow Patrol/Noel Gallagher
12/2/12 Kendrick Lamar/Heartfelt Anarchy
12/14/12 ZZ Ward/Morning Parade/Not A Planet
12/15/12 Of Monsters and Men/The Joy Formidable/Elle King/She’s A Keeper
12/16/12 Passion Pit/Alt J/Blondfire/Heroes and Villains/Churchill
2/15/13 The Walking Dead Show
4/13/13 Lewis Black
6/20/13 Huey Lewis
7/31/13 Postal Service
8/17/13 Beautiful Bodies/We Are Voices/Six Percent/Matt Pryor
10/8/13 Vampire Weekend
10/9/13 Citizen Cope
10/17/13 The Naked and Famous/Portugal The Man/Crystal Fighters/Colourist
10/18/13 Bonnie Raitt/Marc Cohn
10/24/13 Animal Collective/Deradoorian
10/25/13 City & Colour/Sleepy Sun
10/29/13 Passion Pit/The Joy Formidable
10/30/13 Techn9ne/Krizz Kaliko
11/9/13 Iron & Wine/Jesca Hoop
11/27/13 Beautiful Bodies/Making Movies/Royal Teeth/Rev Gusto
12/14/13 Arctic Monkeys/Bastille/Foals/Nonono/Outsides
1/31/14 Alton Brown
2/1/14 Bill Cosby
2/11/14 The Pixies/Cults
3/19/14 Vance Joy/Young The Giant
3/26/14 ZZ Ward/GrizFolk
4/25/14 Chvrches/Broods/Meg Myers
8/1/14 Tori Amos
9/24/14 Glass Animals/Head and The Heart
10/1/14 Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear
10/9/14 Broken Bells/Phantogram/Wild Cub/Haerts/St Lucia
11/26/14 Beautiful Bodies/Roman Numerals/The Architects/The Latenight Callers
2/13/15 Lights/Melanie Martinez/In The Valley Below
5/1/15 Vance Joy/The Kooks/Joywave/Hembree
5/18/15 Spoon/Sweet Spirit
6/11/15 D’angelo and The Vanguard
6/22/15 Smashing Pumpkins
7/30/15 Tallest Man On Earth
10/20/15 Passion Pit
11/7/15 Skylar Grey
11/29/15 The Mowgli’s /Lights/K Flay
12/2/15 Silversun Pickups/Frank Turner/Night Riots/Radkey
12/10/15 Leon Bridges/Houndmouth/Nathaniel Rateliff/Spencer McKenzie Brown
12/17/15 Bastille/The Wombats/The Greeting Committee/Hembree
1/30/16 Madeon/Skylar Spence
2/1/16 Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
2/12/16 Lucius/Marian Hill
4/21/16 Andrew Bird
6/7/16 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
8/5/16 Jim Jefferies
9/13/16 Tegan and Sara/Shura
10/6/16 Porter Robinson/Madeon
10/8/16 James Bay/Joseph
10/14/16 Phantogram/Bishop Briggs/Rachel Mallin & The Wild Type
2/13/17 Run The Jewels
5/9/17 Tears For Fears
8/8/17 Fleet Foxes
10/15/17 The Pixies/Mitski