Songs of summer best when belted out in a crowd

Summertime is concert time! Do you remember your first concert?

Mine was Sly and the Family Stone. Can't say I was a big fan, but as a college freshman the invitation was hard to turn down. Since then, I have been to my share of concerts. I have enjoyed performances by Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Cher and Barry Manilow, to name a few favorites! And for a summertime concert, it's hard to beat The Beach Boys at Ravinia.

This summer, I turned it up a notch and flew to Las Vegas for the opening night of Garth Brooks at Caesar's Palace. Before you jump to conclusions about my devotion to Garth, I have to tell you this was my daughter's idea. My husband and I just went along for the ride. And it was a fun ride! The concert was packed and Garth promised and delivered a unique, intimate show with a special appearance by his wife, Tricia Yearwood (who, by the way, forgot the words to her trademark song only to be helped along by the audience who willingly chimed in.

There were no cellphones allowed in the show (they locked them in a pouch for you until after the show). So, I have no pictures or any evidence that I was actually there. It was kind of like I would tell my Girl Scouts on a nature hike - "Leave only footprints and take only memories."

But if I had my cellphone with me, you would have seen a rousing sing-a-long of "Friends in Low Places" matched only by a heartwarming one of "The Dance". That's what's so great about concerts - the sing-a-long. You can't do that when you go to a Broadway musical or the opera. And I love to sing along! Honestly, I think the performers use it to take a break, but whatever the reason, it sure is fun to belt out your favorite song in a concert arena with thousands of other people.

So that was my concert of the summer. Now on to what many would consider THE concert of the summer-Taylor Swift! I did not attend that one, but I am closely related to some "super fans" - my daughters and even my 6-year-old granddaughter. And what an event. It all began for them months ago with an eight hour wait on Ticketmaster to finally secure tickets, followed by months of anticipation, all culminating on June 4. There was a pre-party with friendship bracelets, face jewels, special makeup and hair dos. Everyone had a TS themed outfit. They were so excited. And as anyone who was at the concert (or who heard about it) will tell you, Taylor does not disappoint her Swifties. The stadium pulsated with energy and the sing-a-longs were epic. Even my granddaughter joined in with her favorite song from the Red album, "Never." She explained to me later that it was OK because everyone else was singing really loud. And, yes, they were! She left with a pink cowboy hat and lots of special memories.

So that was their concert. Now it's your turn. It doesn't have to be Garth Brooks or Taylor Swift to get your concert on. Grab a blanket and head to Uniquely Thursdays. Or check out the schedule at Ravinia. Whatever you do, don't miss your chance to sing-along this summer. It's good for the soul.

- Laura LaPlaca of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].