It is impossible to answer the question of 'What are the best shows?' without defining what we mean by 'best' - we could interpret this as meaning best sound quality (of the recording), most enthusiastic performance, most unusual setlist, or the funniest banter with the audience.
Further difficulties are caused by the fact that concert appreciation is very subjective at the best of times, the trend for traders to change tastes as they acquire more concerts, and the fact that a concert scoring well on one aspect (e.g. sound quality) may fail miserably on others (e.g. enthusiasm).
Some traders may prefer concerts from one particular tour or era. For example, former LN Co-Owner Matt Reeder is well known to be particularly enthusiastic about the concerts to promote the 'In Utero' album in 1993 [you can read why here]. On the other hand, probably a majority of aficionados prefer the earlier concerts, when the band was virtually unknown and the pressure of fame had yet to take their toll.
Furthermore, some concerts may have stand-out setlists or pre-eminent banter when compared with the other concerts on the same tour , but not necessarily overall. It is therefore sensible to be slightly flexible on our criteria to ensure a range of concerts covering the entire band's career, which demonstrates the evolution of the band's performances and sound over the years.
Finally, we note that traders who have very few shows tend to be (naturally) extremely enthusiastic about the few shows they do possess; for this reason the more balanced (if jaded) points of views of the traders who are able to make genuine comparisons may make interesting reading.
This section is therefore divided into five main categories; Best Sound Quality, which rates shows solely according to how well the shows were recorded; Best Setlist, concerts with many rare songs performed will feature here; Most Enthusiasm, for concerts where the band members are audibly having fun; Best Concert Banter, for shows where the band members are being particularly witty; Most Interesting, a catch-all category for shows which have some other special feature; and Overall Best Shows, our summary of the very best surfaced concerts.
Many thanks to the Contributors to this document, who all replied to the LN VBB post in April 2002: Roar Aasheim, Christopher Allen, Adam Andrews, Rich Brookes, Adam Cankaya, Daniel de la Motte, Rolf Fassbind, Thomas Fürholzer, Andy Hall, Chris Hickman, Brian Johnson, Adam Jordan, David Lajeunesse, Barry Lajnwand, Andy Pfeiffer, Philipp Pichler, Matt Reeder, Brian Robb, Brett Robinson, Damien Rockwell, Kevin Roiz, Bill Schofield, Matt Seward, Andrew Silver, Ben Sneddon, Ronnie Sørensen, Felipe Souza, Cale Wedell, Cristian Wimmer.