The Best Shows of 2010
The best shows this year weren’t necessarily bands that ranked the highest in terms of personal iPod plays, but these particular shows did capture everything a concert experience should be: entertaining, invigorating, and providing an overall I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened good time.
Metric @ Indie Fest, San Diego on 3/27/10
Metric headlined this neighborhood celebration of indie bands playing in the parking lot of an old theatre. Relatively aloof with the audience and crew, they kicked major ass with the tunes. Emily Haines was a goddess, entrancing viewers in her teeny sequined dress and beat-up boots.
Download: “Help I’m Alive”
Deerhunter/Spoon @ Fox Theater on 4/13/10
Two of the best bands in the world on the same night, on the same stage! The result was some lightning in a bottle, my friends. It was a damn love fest with both bands stepping in for each other. Deerhunter opened up, and Bradford crowd-surfed with his tambourine, and Spoon showed why they’re the archetype for long-lasting indie rock success: don’t make the music people expect, make the music you want.
Download: “He Would Have Laughed”
Muse @ Coachella on 4/17/10
Coachella has become my yearly “Spring Break” of sorts, welcoming the summer with open arms and a serious need to soak up a shit-ton of music. Luckily this year there were 79,999 other people to share with me the brilliance that is UK-based Muse. Their live show is mind bending, and will have you questioning the validity of any other music you’ve ever seen.
Local Natives @ Coachella on 4/18/10
Never did I imagine that a middle-of-the-day performance under the white Gobi tent would be the most memorable of my first-ever Coachella. I’d listened to and loved Local Natives’ debut album, but witnessing their raw talent live was a completely different experience. These multi-instrumentalists harmonized flawlessly while rocking the shit outta their tunes, and blew my mind in the process.
Frightened Rabbit @ Sound Fix Records on 4/30/10
Frightened Rabbit played a great show at Webster Hall that night, but the day’s most memorable moments came during their incredibly fun acoustic set earlier in the day at Sound Fix Records, where Scott Hutchison abandoned his usually professional stage persona in favor of frequent profanity and prolonged inappropriate inside jokes with the audience. And as big as their songs are with the full band, they also work wonderfully stripped down.
OONA @ the Independent on 5/7/10
As a recent San Franciscan and longtime live music slut, I gotta say that Oona is the single most standout act from the Bay that I saw in 2010. She’s the most wiry thing I’ve seen since Paramore’s front lady Haley Williams, and has the energy of four Tina Turners. And boys, she’s not bad to look at either – take your girl out, you’ll both enjoy it.
Mumford and Sons @ The Belly Up, San Diego on 6/6/10
There’s nothing like four humble lads from west London to take you away to another time and place. The music is them, and while they play they seem to wear the struggles of the downtrodden. I swear, these gents are not of this modern world, and the entire venue felt it.
Download: “Little Lion Man”
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings with The Heavy @ The Wiltern, LA on 6/26/10
Ms. Jones laid down her signature hearty soul stylings, including a 10-15 minute review of popular dance moves of the 70′s featuring a medley of soul and funk favorites. Everyone left sweaty and exhausted from dancing so hard.
Bird and the Bee, She & Him, and The Swell Season @ The Hollywood Bowl on 7/18/10
Never before have I witnessed such a perfect combination of sweet, melodic, and stylish bands. A perfect LA event.
Neon Trees @ Slim’s 7/27/10
I only went to about 5-6 shows this year (not enough, I know) and Neon Trees was my topper. They were simply superior in the fun department… more so than any other band: styling, extreme energy on stage, good vocals, and musicianship. Their sound is just straightforward pop, but they’re surprisingly impressive on stage.
The Dead Weather @ Don Hills on 8/4/10
Perhaps it was the illegality of being there, perhaps it was the look of terror from the models and corporate suits in the mosh pit, or maybe it was because what began as a half-assed idea of showing up to an invite-only show actually worked. No matter, The Dead Weather show at Don Hills was truly as ubiquitous as the term may be, epic. “Fuck you, you hip motherfuckers,” Jack White seethed to rousing applause, while Allison Mosshart seductively prowled the stage doing all but impregnating the mic. Ahhh, sex and loathing, the rockstar’s guide to a good time.
Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt @ Cafe du Nord (Rumble SF) on 8/4/10
I often imagine that I’m just a child and my parents have taken me to see Sesame Street on Ice. In this daydream, myself and 15,000 other people are dancing on the ice amidst streamers and balloons that have fallen from the ceiling with Mr. Snuffleupagus,Â Big Bird, and the Count. And that’s what TPDR can do to a 30 year old – make them feel like they were a mere child, dancing and singing away, though we all had just learned the songs.
Joseph Gordon Levitt @ Pianos on 8/16/10
Put down the pitchforks! This does relate! Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “Summer In the City” concert/multimedia series was a celebration of his organization hitRECORD (Check it out. Be inspired.), and the man proved he’s a genius on screen, off screen, and with a computer screen. Aside from the night’s other wonders, the host himself sang a version of “Natural Woman” following a performance from Nels Cline. Non-legitimate contribution be damned!
Michael Franti & Spearhead @ The House of Blues, San Diego on 9/23/10
The beaches emptied out into downtown San Diego with Michael Franti in town. A little reggae and a shit load of funk, and the crowd went insane. For two hours or so, anything that was horrible about life was turned into a giant celebration of strength, determination and pot.
Titus Andronicus @ Rock and Roll Hotel on 9/24/10 & @ Public Assembly (CMJ) 10/23/10
There simply are no words for how good this band is live. And considering the notably verbose nature of the source, that should say a lot. Alas, perhaps it was Shakespeare who already expressed it best, “If music be the food of love, play on.”
Download: “Four Score and Seven (part one)”
Muse @ Honda Center, Anaheim on 9/23/2010 & Staples Center, LA on 9/25/2010
I got a double dose of Muse – because once was simply not enough – and I can now die a happy lady. If you’ve never witnessed the powerhouse that is Muse, you are seriously missing out on one of the most dazzling rock bands in the world. Both shows were packed with colorful lights, dizzying lasers, explosive sounds, and giant white balls falling from the ceiling. I’ve never been so thrilled to have white balls on my head! Aside from the amazing visuals, the showmanship and stage presence they had that night was just as impressive as the ear piercing falsetto coming out of Matthew Bellamy. This was Jeff Buckley vocal work x1000. Muse is a dynamite progressive rock trio that had their audience by the throat. Number 1 show of the year – hands down.
Stars @ Littlefield on 9/26/10
After playing NYC’s massive Terminal 5, Stars announced a couple of last-minute shows at small venues, including Brooklyn’s Littlefield. The intimate affair was complete with white roses that littered the stage (and got chucked into the audience periodically, one smacking me in the head), and was the perfect setting for a career-spanning set of Stars’ smart, romantic pop songs.
The Black Keys @ The Hollywood Palladium on 9/27/10
Just great fucking rock â€˜n’ roll…two guys, a couple instruments, gigantic amps, some Christmas lights and a jam-packed, sweaty, low-key crowd loving every second.
Download: “Next Girl”
Arcade Fire @ The Greek on 10/2/10
I’ve been to a lot of shows, but this one easily tops the list. With unbridled power, energy, and emotion, the band of misfits that are Arcade Fire charged through the stadium like a pack of wild horses. A rarity to see them live, their unforgiving raw talent blasted the at-capacity and overflowing 8,000+ outdoor venue for a life-changing 2.5 hour set on this particular night. This was a show I surely will not forget.
The National @ Pomona Fox Theatre on 10/16/10
Music makes me cry. It’s what I love so much about it, but rarely do I cry at live shows. Yeah, I get choked up, but cry? Naw. Well I cried like a broken-hearted Bieber teen on this particular night. Did I say cry? Silly me, I meant sob. No really, snot and all. This show was a heart-pounding, soulful, spiritual, outer-body experience. I saw God that night, in the image of Matt Berninger.
JÃ³nsi @ Fox Theater, 10/19/10
To call JÃ³nsi’s live performance a “concert” is like using “circus” to describe Cirque du Soleil. It’s an experience, much closer to theater than a concert. What the five-member group produces is on par with a large symphony; creating hypnotic, emotional music, inflated by powerful ambient noise that seems to push the walls aside and take the audience on a journey.
Oh Land @ CMJ 10/20/10
I caught Danish electropop singer Oh Land on the first night of CMJ, and would have gone to every single one of her other CMJ shows (and there were a lot) if I didn’t have so many other bands to catch. She easily won over the audience with her quirky and instantly memorable songs, unique instrumentation (a “contraption” topped with balloons that showed projections), beguiling stage presence, and daring sense of style.
Face to Face @ The House of Blues, Anaheim on 11/11/2010
This is a band that has not toured much since their recent reunion, so to be able to catch a one-off show in my neck of the woods was almost mandatory. Face to Face came equipped with nothing but the classics. They dove head first into their most stellar albums to date; Don’t Turn Away, Big Choice and S/T. They also debuted a few songs off their much anticipate release, Laugh Now, Laugh Later (2011). I can honestly say, with conviction, that the majority in attendance were hardcore fans, and those who were newly exposed to the punk band from Victorville, CA — left madly in love. I was thrown back to 1995, when I was a carefree teen with no direction in life. Face to Face made so much sense to me this particular night. I understood my place. This show is near and dear to my heart.
Weezer, Best Coast @ Gibson Amphitheatre, LA on 11/26/2010
I can hardly say I am a true Weezer fan, but I am not alone when I say that the Blue album was probably their best album, ever. Luckily, Weezer set out on a Memories Tour and on this select night, performed the entire Blue album! I have never been surrounded by so many nerdfans in one setting. Not that there is anything wrong with nerdfans, I mean, who I am to judge? I love Journey. This show was fantastic not only because I got to hear my favorite album but because Jorge Garcia, from ABC’s Lost, made a cameo on stage and sang along to “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To” with Rivers Cuomo. Weezer mixed it up in the beginning, playing songs from various releases (in order). I enjoyed listening to Bethany Consentino of Best Coast, who lent her voice on “Island In The Sun.” My observations conclude that every single person at the Gibson Amphitheatre had their wildest dreams come true. I may have possibly been converted.
Download: “Boyfriend” (Best Coast)
OK Go @ Club Nokia, LA on 11/27/10
Dressed in red, yellow, blue & green the band of music-video fame shot their confetti wads as if it was somebody’s birthday (oh wait, it was… mine!) Not only did OK Go put on a stellar show musically but also theatrically with beaming lazers from furry guitars, performing “What To Do” on the hand bells (!!!), and showing their video for “White Knuckles” in 3D. When was the last time you wore red/green shades with a couple hundred other music lovers? It was a show of colossal proportions and the perfect way to usher in the next decade of my life.
Download: “White Knuckles”