Friday, May 4, 2012

Best Concerts of 2011

While doing my taxes this year I realized I'd never finished my list of favorite concerts of 2011. In looking back some were obvious, while I had to think a little harder about others. Some of the bands I fell in love with live and on record I watched with only a handful of people (Lydia Loveless at Evening Muse, Still Corners at Snug Harbor, Hank & Cupcakes, who I highly recommend live, at Amos', and Nurses at Tremont). My husband stands by his top show of 2011 - Sade at Time Warner Cable Amphitheatre. She was great, but I didn't include it because that's really more of his thing and he's thinking of it from a production standpoint more than as a fan. That said, here is my list of my most memorable concerts of 2011.

Robyn at Bonnaroo June 12, Manchester Tennessee (pictured) - After falling in love with her “Body Talk” album over and over again (in part thanks to my 1-year-old who digs “Dancing on My Own”) seeing her live was a revelation. Her style and actions are sometimes confounding - she wore a football jersey and biker shorts and ate a banana during the set - but her oddities and originality are one reason to adore her. She’s completely original and I always had a special spot for wacky dancers (Natalie Merchant with 10,000 Maniacs on “SNL” or Mary Chapin-Carpenter in the “Down at the Twist and Shout” video for instance). I can’t wait to see her again when she opens for Coldplay on tour in July.

Eminem at Bonnaroo June 11, Manchester Tennessee - After seeing and hearing his set at Bonnaroo, which sounded amazing, I’d travel to see him again (which might be realistic since his live performances are pretty rare). It was hit packed. He was an incredible showman who engaged the crowd with each beat. It was one of those shows like Arcade Fire’s first Coachella that I felt privileged to witness. My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire’s memorable sets the night before were also standouts.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings March 11 at McGlohon Theatre, Charlotte, NC - Shimmying in a fringed dress on stage at 55 with a voice that’s strength and soulfulness comes in part from her age and experience, Jones and her crack band are just so good live. Simultaneously raw and polished like live bands should be, Jones demonstrates (along with artists like Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen) that music knows no age limit.

Hopesfall at Amos’ Southend August 5, Charlotte, NC - I saw the influential Charlotte Christian core outfit at the height of its popularity, but never in the early form that drew such a rabid fanbase here at home. That lineup included friend and original drummer Adam Morgan. The group only did two reunion shows - one here and one at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem - and fans flew in from as far away as Australia to witness them. There was something really special about it both on stage and off. After endless lineup changes and a sort of strange end, it gave those that started it a sense of closure.

Anthrax/Testament/Death Angel November 5 at The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC - Although my attachment to metal waned as trends veered toward indecipherable lyrics and screamy vocals, this show reminded me of everything I loved about metal when I was 13 and made me give the rest of the contemporary genre another try.

Elvis Costello July 16 at Belk Theater, Charlotte, NC - "The wheel" - a giant game show prop (think “Wheel of Fortune” with song titles) - allowed audience members' spins to determine the set list. It  only landed on one of my very favorites once (“I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea”), but Costello served up an interactive show and great career retrospective that rang with spontaneity. I consider him a living legend, but he didn’t behave like a standoffish performer. He interacted with the crowd, joked, and even marched out in the aisles where he sang not 10 feet from us. Each time I see him reaffirms his special place in music history.

Foo Fighters November 8 at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC - I just don’t think there’s a better live rock band playing arenas today. There’s something joyous in Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins’ demeanors that permeates the crowd. I didn’t think it could top its 2007 show at Bojangles’ Coliseum, but it certainly gave it its best shot.

Face to Face May 25 at The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC - My husband sent me and a friend to Asheville to see this Victorville, CA veteran pop-punk band as a surprise. Neither of us really wanted to make the trip, but were glad we did. Like Anthrax, Face to Face reminded me of why I once wore their t-shirts. I loaded their entire catalog on to my iPod once I got home. Trevor Keith is still a force and songs like “Disconnected” and “Ordinary” as well as pretty much anything off “Big Choice” are just anthemic, pop punk classics.

Kyusss Lives! September 25 at The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC - Having had a great interview with vocalist John Garcia a few weeks before the show gave me perspective on how much this reunion meant for both the fans and the band and that energy and joy was contagious. This is easily my husband’s favorite show of the year (aside from Sade), but he’s a longtime fan that was musically influenced by the original band. There was something special about the show (and maybe the whole tour was that way). It’s sad that the group is embattled in a legal dispute with fellow Kyuss founder Josh Homme because that hurdle may kill its momentum.

Van Hunt September 29 at Double Door Inn, Charlotte, NC - Maybe it’s because I love his 2011 album “What Were You Hoping For?” so much. Maybe it’s because his band was so tight and funky. But despite harsh sound, this ranks up there with one of my favorite shows of the year. Hunt is a soulful vocalist. He crosses genres from jazz to funk to jam to rock with ease. He’s not afraid to turn up the weirdness as he demonstrated even more so during his more recent performance at The Double Door, which was a looser, jazzier, more improvisational set than September’s concert. I prefer the former because it was so heavy on new material.

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