The Top Ranked Shows Since 2000
By Jake Vigliotti
The grading scale is fairly simple; you just choose between 1 and 5 stars to rate the show you saw. For the most part, the selections are made within 48-72 hours of the show. That gives a plurality of the shows the fans immediate reaction to how they felt during the show. That’s we are looking at 2000 and on for the top rated shows; although available for all shows, generally speaking the crowds (and thus sample size) is smaller for pre 2000 shows. And throw in the fact that Ants didn’t open for business until 2002, in reality only the 2002 shows have the instant access feature. Maybe that’s why no shows in 2000 or 2001 reached the 4.7 status.
Before we look at the list, notice a few things. Certain songs automatically boost shows. You’ll see that throughout the 16 shows below. Venue, for the most part, doesn’t matter. As a whole, every show at The Gorge is higher rated than the average show. That has a lot to do with fans making a long trek to get there, which adds to the mystique of the show. But overall, the venue has little effect on the scoring system. That being said, you will see a few locations with multiple shows listed.
12.10.05 –4.7 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
You never thought at 2005 show would be ranked so highly? Observe the phenomenon known as, “the song”. When a highly desired song comes out of nowhere, it elevates that show. In this case, Halloween. It’s not that the show is bad, and by 05 standards, it’s off the chart. But by today’s standards, regardless of when you’re reading this, it’s not that spectacular.
7.14.10 –4.7 - Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton, PA
Sometimes fans appreciate balance and a really sharp set. This show has both. A song from every album sans Everyday is played, which is pretty much what people hope for from a show. Of the 4.7 club, it’s easy to pick this one having the worst of the encores, but the show is really solid, and The So Damn Lucky encore closer featured a very long sing-along to Thank You. The crowd certainly appreciated it, and that’s why it scored so highly.
7.31.10 –4.72 Cruzan Amphitheatre, WPB, FL
Ask a lot of people (myself included), and we’ll tell you that the night before was better, but this is another example of “the song.” A lot of people got their first Last Stop that evening, and along with a killer Cortez The Killer featuring Warren Haynes, this show certainly isn’t a slouch. This was early in the Blackjack existence, and it’s one of the best performances of the song. And Jimi Thing, with Lasim Richards on Trombone, made for a nice closer, something the die-hards usually don’t appreciate.
10.2.07 –4.72 Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA
This show is still one of the most requested by Ants to be a Live Trax. The reason is mainly for the guests. It’s a guest-fest, with Danny Barnes, John Mayer, and especially the Stephen Marley band on Exodus. Dave dedicated #34 to his wife Ashley in honor of her 34th birthday, making one of 3 numbered songs played that evening (along with #27 and #41).
11.20.10 –4.76 John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
This is another show that you’ll find more than a few claiming that Night One was better. No argument from me either on that one. But oh look at that encore. The encore truly made the show. You’ll be hard pressed to ever find a show with Can’t Stop rated so highly. Long Black Veil was also a treat for those that didn’t see shows back in 2001, and Say Goodbye was especially good.
9.3.11 – 4.77 The Gorge, George, WA
A large number of fans got to watch this thanks to the DMB Live stream, and oh what a treat it was for those that stayed up late (on the east coast) to see it. Once again we see a Cortez The Killer featuring Warren Haynes (the kids like that a lot). The show is very solid all around, and a new cover, Don’t Fear The Reaper, also appears.
6.21.08 - 4.78 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY
It wasn’t too long ago that we called this show an instant classic. And once again we were right. SPAC got the only performances of A Dream So Real and Shotgun in 2008, plus they started the trend of fans singing along with Jimi Thing when Dave missed his cue for the first verse. The encore continued the Lie In Our Graves from earlier by completing the reprise. Great show, and still stands out as a classic.
9.11.05 –4.79 Red Rocks, Morrison, CO
Nothing spices up a show like a little Halloween. This show is far and away the winner when it comes to 2005 shows. But beyond the Halloween, it’s a nice little show. Butterfly makes an appearance, and the popular yet underplayed You Never Know also pops up. The score may seem insanely high today, but don’t sell it short, this was a real good show.
11.13.10 –4.79 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
No show on this list has more of a “you had to be there” vibe to it. In short, Everyday was epic. However, Dave’s voice was gone for 5 songs, yet fans still loved this show. On paper it’s a great show, but with the vocal difficulties by Dave, the tape just doesn’t hold up. But just ask anyone who attended the show, and they’ll wax poetically about the awesomeness of Everyday.
8.15.09 –4.79 Cruzan Amphitheatre, WPB, FL
Breaking news! West Palm Beach gets some good shows. Just go back and look and you’ll see some real gems, and night 2 in 2009 is no exception. When they list all the great Two Step’s of all time, this one will be somewhere near the top. And in the encore, the band ditched the scheduled encore for Halloween, Florida’s first since 1995. That’s as good of an album tour show you’ll see.
6.20.09 –4.8 Post Gazette Pavilion at Star Lake, Burgettstown, PA
But this album tour show trumps the prior one. The good people of the greater Pittsburgh area were treated to a show with both Halloween and Dreaming Tree. That’s like seeing a UFO crash into a unicorn. Oh, and a #40 tease. This show is a true hidden gem among 2009 shows.
9.23.03 –4.8 Great Lawn, NY, NY
The Central Park show is by far the best known show ranked in the upper echelon, but it may surprise you to look at the set list. There is a great Cortez The Killer (note to mgmt: fans like this song) with Warren Haynes, and also Jimi Thing with Warren, but the biggest surprise song of the night is probably Help Myself. Compared to some of the songs brought back in 2003, this one seems to lack the punch. But that doesn’t stop it from being highly rated. It’s still a very good show.
6.13.09 –4.85 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY
For all the SPAC v Alpine threads out there, SPAC can claim 2 shows above 4.7. Night 2 from 09 hit epic proportions with a Watchtower to Halloween encore closer. Shake Me Like A Monkey as an opener is vastly underrated, and the fans also got a Stone and Typical Situation. Not bad for people that chanted Two Step all night. They got one of those too.
6.26.11 –4.85 Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ
Ah… the Atlantic City release. Do you now see how epic this show is? Kill The King, Raven, Dive In, Seek Up, Warehouse, and one of the best fake outs of all time, with Ants tease into Halloween, back into Ants. Incredible. The show is a great mix of rare, popular, and, “wow did they just cover Aerosmith?”
12.21.02 –4.86 Madison Square Garden, NY, NY
James Brown. That’s all you need to know about that show. James Brown. Oh, and a Halloween too. It’s almost unfair that those folks got the most unpredictable guest ever, but also a Halloween. But wait, there’s more! Seek Up (mid-set no less), and a Drive In Drive Out opener? How about a mid-set Watchtower too? Wow. The five opening songs are as strong as you can find for any opening show. Yes, it’s James Brown, but the whole show outside a few Everyday songs that were standard in 02 that you can’t get past is pretty awesome.
9.8.02 –4.87 The Gorge, George, WA
You may look at this show and say, “there ain’t no way a show with Space Between is the highest ever”, but you have to remember what 2002 was in terms of tours. In short, it wasn’t very good. This show is a culmination of emotions for fans; it didn’t seem possible that a set list like this could be played, well, ever again. Only two Everyday songs were played (very uncommon), and the rest were like a greatest hits for fans. Lover Lay Down, Lie In Our Graves, Seek Up, Jane, Rapunzel. And then, for the encore, Dave and Roi played a beautiful Long Black Veil, followed by Halloween. And how about a little Billies to end it? By today’s standards (regardless of when you’re reading this), it’s not a 4.87, but at the time, it was about as perfect as it could get.
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