Best In Show 2011
Surprisingly, I haven't done a concerts of the year post since the very first year I started blogging five years ago. So it's a big odd that I am doing one for the year that I have blogged the least. Despite the fact that I felt somewhat disconnected from music last year, I still saw some great shows. So here are the top five...
Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN - 7/2/11
I hate stadium shows. They are big, they are impersonal, and during the summer they are a hot, sweaty, stinky mess. Despite all that, U2 takes the top spot as my favorite show this year. And that speaks to what an amazing live band they are. They overcome the distance between the performer and the poor schmuck who has seats in the top row of a football stadium, and make it feel as intimate as a club show. Sure their massive stage is a spectacle, but lots of bands play on big massive stages and can’t make you feel the way U2 does. Twenty four years after the first time I saw them live, they are still the best live band I’ve ever seen. Read our original review from July.
2. Taylor Swift
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN - 9/17/11
Yeah, seriously. Ever since she released Speak Now last year, I’ve really grown to not just appreciate Taylor Swift, but actually like her. She is a great songwriter, and if some indie darling wrote a line like “you made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter,” it’d be hailed as genius. Her songs are full of clever wordplay, and I think if it weren’t for the fact she’s cute, young, and admittedly a mediocre vocalist, she’d get a lot more props for her songwriting than she does.
That said I’d have never gone to this concert if my wife hadn’t wanted to go. But I’m glad she did. It definitely shattered expectations, pretty much from the moment we entered the building. The first thing we noticed is that the average age of the crowd was a lot older than we would have expected. It was definitely predominately female, and while there were a fair share of teeny boppers, there were also a whole lot of twenty and thirty somethings. As the lights went down to the sound of Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” the crowd went apeshit, and Taylor literally exploded on to the stage to the sounds of “Sparks Fly.” At the end of the song, I half expected her to start quoting Sally Field award speeches as she put on her trademark surprise face, like she didn’t expect to get such a thunderous response. It took a few minutes to get used to completely unspontaneous nature of the show. It seemed like every facial expression and hair toss was choreographed. But as the show went on, you realized this was almost more a broadway production than a concert. There were multiple set and costume changes, dancers and acrobats, and more pyro than you’d see anywhere outside of a Kiss show. Once you got used to the fact that this wasn’t going to be a typical concert in the way you’ve come to expect it, you could just sit back and enjoy what was one hell of a show. Swift is a born entertainer, and on stage she’s as much an actress as a singer. The way she can work a crowd almost gives Bruce Springsteen a run for his money. Combine all that with a parade of hits performed with more enthusiasm than most bands can muster and you have yourself one hell of a fun evening.
3. Guided By Voices
Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN - 1/14/11
Score one of nostalgia. While it wasn’t as magical as the one time I got to see the “classic” Guided By Voices line up at Exit/In back in 1995, it was definitely better than any of their shows I’ve seen since then (and that’s not a knock, GBV has always put on a great show). Even after a year of touring together, you could tell that Uncle Bob, Toby, Mitch, Greg and Kevin were having a blast playing together, and the fact that the setlist was damn near perfect meant two hours of pure pop bliss for indie geeks. Read our original review from January.
Guided By Voices - "Official Ironman Rally Song (Demo)" (mp3)
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN - 4/3/11
I’d pretty much given up on Rush over the last decade or so. Not only had I not bought one of their new albums since Counterparts, but I’d also skipped out on seeing them live on their last few tours. But time heals all wounds, and the stellar documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage not only rekindled my love of the band, but also introduced my wife to them. You pretty much know what you’re going to get when you go see them live… note perfect renditions of their songs played with musicianship that most jazz cats would envy. And though they’ve incorporated videos into their concerts for years, they seem to be doing it with more humor than ever before, which made the concert even more fun. Read our original review from April.
5. Interpol & School of Seven Bells
Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN - 5/2/11
If I was ordering this list by my favorite concert moments rather than the entire concert, Interpol performing “Lights” at the Mother Church would top the list. It was one of those absolutely transcendent concert moments that only happen a few times during the course of your life. This concert also marked the first time in years that’d I’d been so impressed by an opening act that it necessitated a trip to the merch stand to buy their CD. Read our original review from May.
School Of Seven Bells - "Windstorm" (mp3) from Disconnect From Desire