Do we need to count down backwards? For a change, why not start with the best and just work our way back to the merely excellent. Frankly, when you get past the top four or five we're probably just talking about fractions of fractions, and the incorrect predilections of taste by our comrades, you know?
1. Detour - Justice, Kinky, Shout Out Louds, Satellite Party, Raveonettes, Patton Oswalt, Bloc Party..., downtown, October 7
Of course it was #1. Last year's Detour may have had bigger marquee names, but this year featured just one excellent band after another, with a huge variety of sounds and styles, and the fun of wandering around downtown LA for hours on end.
2. White Stripes, Tower Records, June 20
Christmas has come early. Peppermint-striped cigarette girls hawking dildo-sized candy canes and other White Stripes mementos circled the crowd. The other Jack, Jack Black, introduced the duo.
Then Jack and Meg unleashed a performance ferocious enough to crumble the building to its foundation a good few months before its slated demolition (as was the gossip throughout the night).
(photos by Timothy Norris)
3. Morrissey - Hollywood Bowl, June 8
There were the concerts in Pasadena and the weird multi-night mess at the Palladium as well, but it was the show at the Bowl that seemed to come together best for Moz. He might have played LA more than Spoon this year.
Photo by Timothy Norris. Click here for more.
From Siran Babyan's review: "Wearing a white suit as if he were a killer shark sniffing meat-infested blood, Morrissey opened his third local date with a bang, ripping into “The Queen is Dead” while a backdrop of black-and-white James Dean (the king of all cool iconography) pictures watched over him. All the Smiths' pickin's were ripe, including the yodel-licious “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side,” where he sounds like he's climbing a mountain with the von Trapp family, and Johnny Marr's psychedelic opus “How Soon Is Now?,” which current skinsman Matthew Walker turned into a thunderous powwow. In fact, all the songs were given an extra razzle-dazzle 'em effect: sleazy horns here, more wah wah guitar there. Morrissey's also wise about the solo material he's faithful to, from perennial early classics “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” to newer cuts off his last two recent albums, including “Irish Blood, English Heart,” “The First of the Gang to Die” and “In the Future When All's Well,” which easily stand out as some of his best.
Many more after the jump.
4. Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Hollywood Bowl, Sept. 20
Raving about a live Arcade Fire show at this point is like writing about how cute kittens are. We know, we know. It’s like, how many superlatives can you pile on top of one another before the whole thing collapses? So let’s leave it at this. You know that feeling you get when a magical combination of notes transforms into a melody, travels into your ears, hits the sweet spot of your eardrums, passes into your brain and has a massive orgasm in your head? ... Those moments, even under the best of circumstances, usually last a few seconds before epiphany gives way to brainchatter and you’re back on planet Earth. Well, last night was tantric. At one point I stopped, looked up at the sky, and felt totally at one with the universe. Read the rest of Randall Roberts' review and more of Timothy Norris' photos here.
5. Prince, The Roosevelt Hotel Blossom Room, June 29
From Kate Sullivan's review: As Prince and Co. dug deeper into the hit-bag, the crowd loosened — "Kiss," the "Bang A Gong"-inspired "Cream" (heavy cowbell!), "U Got the Look," even a cover of Chakha Khan's "Sweet Thing" — seduced and invited the crowd to sing along (which everyone did, loudly and without shame). By the way, his new song, "Guitar" (off the forthcoming Planet Earth) also fits in nicely with those — goofy, funny, somewhat Bolanesque. Naturally, Prince closed with his abridged version of "Purple Rain" and, ever the showman, urged the audience to whoop along to that mournful "oo oo oo ooo..." refrain — which we did, again, even louder than before.
Alas, no photos, but click here to read the whole review.
6. Qui, the Bronx, Circle Jerks, Melvins and the Locust, at the Echoplex, August 4
And then the Melvins played. Christ Almighty, there’s reason why drummer Dale Crover and guitarist Buzz Osborne engender such rabid adoration: they deliver a perfect experience. For more than two decades the band has been without peer artistically, sonically and visually. Tonight, absent recent additions Coady Willis & Jared Warren of Big Business, King Buzzo nonchalantly plundered his way through complex guitar arrangements while Crover’s legendary gusto behind the kit shook the house and mesmerized the crowd. It was fucked-up awesome.
7. Paul McCartney, Amoeba Records, June 27
Yeah, he played Beatles songs.
People waited in line for days, even though Amoeba handled the thing so professionally, no one really needed to. Read about Peter Fletcher's line-time here And read Linda Immediato's show review here.
He didn't disappoint, he gave them what they wanted, and so the crowd Na-na-na'ed to Hey Jude, pounded their fists in the air to Back in the USSR, bopped their heads to Get Back, and Blackbird and stood solemnly still holding lighters above their heads to Let It Be. At one point someone in the crowd yelled a request for Helter Skelter. "No, now, that's John's," said Sir Paul. "But, let's do one for John. One for John and Linda." He played one of his own, Here Today. The lyrics seemed to be more for John, And if I say I really knew you well/What would your answer be/If you were here today/Well knowing you/You'd probably laugh and say that we were worlds apart/If you were here today/But as for me/I still remember how it was before/And I am holding back the tears no more. And with that Paul got a little choked up and when he was done he let us all know that it was ok to cry.
8. Entrance, Safari Sam's, August 3
Entrance are not who you think they are. They are not a quiet, mellow trio nipping at the heels of the psych-folk pack mule, despite their long hair, skinny limbs, pale skin and bare feet (which make them look like they're on their way to see the California country line-up at Topanga Days). As their set on Friday confirmed, they are thoroughly guns-blazing, balls-out rock n' roll. How such a full-throttle wailing voice can come out of such a slim young man is a mystery, but the ferocity with which Guy Blakeslee ripped into songs off his 2006 rock opera album Prayer of Death managed to get me head-banging unconsciously — I didn't realize what I was doing until I hit the guy behind me.
9 & 10 (tie) The Frames, Henry Fonda, Sept. 6
The Swell Season, El Rey, Aug. 1
On the strength of his movie Once, and a determination to conquer this city through brute force, playing larger and larger venues every couple of months, Glen Hansard played half a dozen shows around L.A. this year. Some with his longtime band, The Frames, some as Swell Season. From the Troubadour to movie theaters to the Wiltern, it's been a staggering run.
Read Ryan Ward's review of Swell Season here: But no matter how the words hypnotize you, The Swell Season give good song. Dynamic and refreshing. Glorious crescendos and classic melodies. And just think, we almost all gave up on the notion. Neither of the two realize how powerful they are, and thankfully so. It is apparent however, that they love their music and they love performing it, and it's genuine. Can you believe it? Humble, gracious and talented! Not inside the county line, please.
11. Van Halen, Staples Center, November 20
We fell in love with a couple: Eddie and Dave from Pasadena, and like a pair of divorcees who seem so lost after the break-up, so halved and lonely, one without the other is weird and wrong. And because we love Hollywood endings, Van Halen at the Staples Center was a joy to behold, even if Dave can’t jump as high as he used to and there was no Michael Anthony swinging from a rope and swigging from a bottle of Jack.
12. Rock the Bells - Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan, The Roots, Rage Against the Machine, August 11
The bonfires started during the Wu-Tang Clan set, and they seemed a portent for what was to come. Security guys near the pit briefed each other and us photographers, then instructed the first 10 rows of the crowd on exit strategies, just in case. As the lights were about to go down, a skirmish broke out. When Rage Against the Machine finally hit, they were all business, and so was the crowd. Up in the photo pit, fans jockeyed for position. By song three, the photographers were trapped by a mass of people trying to break through to the stage. Security pushed us into the crowd. Removed from the mayhem, I took the opportunity to get the long shot. -Timothy Norris
13. Coachella, Indio, April 27th-29th
The Black Keys at Coachella, Photos by Lina Lecaro.
Read the whole Nightranger take on the festival here: The wristband situation was more confusing than ever this year (there were at least 10 different colors), but we’d figured out what worked for where by Sunday night. Not that it mattered by then. We scored a coveted ribbon band on Saturday, which enabled us to get backstage for the smaller stages. Even that couldn’t help us see Lily Allen — though we did hear her. The crowds backstage for both the golden (earring) girl and dance rockers LCD Soundsystem the day before were almost as big as the ones facing them, which led security to block off the side viewing areas to everyone, even the dudes from the Strokes and No Doubt (with their kids)!
14. Sonic Youth, Urban Outfitters, July 21
Confusion is Sex’s tribal “The World Looks Red” started things off, though, as the band, augmented by Mark Ibold (ex-Pavement) on bass, made the “Frankie Says Relax” T-shirt rack quake. Thurston employed a drumstick as a weapon of noisy destruction on one of his many guitars for this tune, perfectly chaotic and discordant. The Youth’s ‘90s semi-hit, “Bull in the Heather,” followed, a perfect choice for this crowd – some of whom were probably born around the time Daydream Nation came out, some of whom were probably drinking legally around that time. Read the rest of Jonah Flicker's review here.
Photo by Timothy Norris. More here.
15. Stagecoach: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Indio, May 5-6
One week after the three-day Coachella Music Festival, a new crowd descended upon the Empire Polo Fields, pushing baby strollers, wearing cowboy hats and carrying folding chairs. Everyone from baby to Grandma was there for the first ever Stagecoach Country Music Festival. It felt a little like going behind enemy lines — the blue state/red state divide. These were God-fearing, America-loving, family-valued folks who brought their own chairs with cup holders (at Stagecoach you were allowed to carry booze out of the beer gardens) and staked out a spot in front of the Mane Stage (formerly the Main Stage). Read the rest of Linda Immediato's review here and see more photos here.
16. Amy Winehouse, Roxy, March 19
From Ernest Hardy's review: Live, Winehouse was noticeably nervous but utterly charming, singing for an audience who knew all the words to all the songs. She was in spectacular voice throughout, backed by a crack band (man, that horn section . . .) and two chicly attired male backup singers who energetically pulled off synchronized choreography. Winehouse’s own herky-jerky, off-the-beat dancing and ragged emulation of girl-group style somehow underscored an aura of sincerity (a matted beehive with an unkempt tail; an ill-fitting dress that kept sliding down her scary-thin frame; weathered leopard-print shoes rummaged from the back of some tranny’s closet). Her awkward performance of femininity befits a woman who can’t quite figure how to stop fucking up her relationships and her life. Photo by Gregory Bojorquez
17. The Police, Dodger Stadium, June 23
Photo by Timothy Norris. See more here.
From Siran Babayan's review: It’s easy to pick on Sting for making one smooth-jazz album after another as if he’s been stuck inside an elevator since the Police’s unofficial split, when in fact, all three had jazz backgrounds before and after the band. (It was Sting, by the way, who made the first move toward reunification.) And maybe 23 years was just the right amount of time the boys needed to pursue all those other ventures (solo efforts, movie roles, film scores, autobiographies), regroup and sound as cohesive and effortless as they did on this night, each under his own colossal spotlight — Andy Summers, in control of the ax, minus the guitar god bravado; Stewart Copeland, a marching-band geek in a headband and white gloves behind the skins; and Sting, so at ease and confident, with nary a bead of sweat on his toned and tanned 55-year-old body.
18. Very Be Careful, Club Bahia, May 25
From Daniel Henandez's review: There's always an element of danger at a Very Be Careful show. They tend to play venues and in neighborhoods where the occasional bar brawl is not uncommon. And the band members themselves, true products of the modern multicultural L.A., are legendary in the city's urban core for never turning down that pivotal final drink. You know, the one people still talk about a week after it gets drunk. It's their charm, their force: playing traditional Colombian vallenato, a kind of sexy, sleepy-eyed cousin of cumbia that you cannot, just cannot, help dancing to as soon as it strikes your ears and hips, Very Be Careful encompasses the “real” Los Angeles in a way no other home-grown cultural phenomenon does. Of course, people might fight or get too drunk or start making out ravenously on the dance-floor. Everyone is sweating. Everyone is checking each other out. Everyone is a shade of the color called Mixed.
19. Femi Kuti, House of Blues, July 20
...despite the multi-talented Femi’s charisma and energy, I can’t say unequivocally that he was the star of his own show. Accompanying him on stage were three stunning, female Nigerian dancers, who unabashedly shook their asses in ways a mere pale-faced mortal like myself never thought possible. In what appeared to be a breach of the space-time continuum, one of the girls seemed to be able to stay on the beat with her left cheek and go double-time with her right. (Go ahead and try that at home – I dare you.) Femi may have spent half his set healing lepers for all I know -- I found it nearly impossible to take my eyes off the gyrations. I wasn’t the only one. From Matthew Fleischer's review.
20. Pearl Jam all over Europe.
Not in L.A., not even close. But when Ryan Colditz took a couple weeks off from the LA Weekly in the middle of summer to follow Pearl Jam as they played half a dozen shows across Europe, we wish we'd been there too.
This show was 7 years in the making...
While playing at the nearby Roskilde Festival in Denmark in 2000, nine fans were killed during Pearl Jam's set by the surging crowd. Last night was their first return to Denmark since the event that nearly brought an end to the band, and it was clear the tragedy was still forefront in everyone's minds. It was a night to honor the nine lost, while at the same time a celebrating life and the long road it is.
Before the show even started, Eddie Vedder brought everyone together when he surprised the early-bird crowd by coming on stage with an amazing version of "Throw Your Arms Around Me." Following Vedder's appetizer, The Futureheads opened up with a very upbeat opening set, high in energy that carried through the eentire evening. I had the chance to meet the guy in The Futureheads before the show – they're an amazing group of guys who lent a helping hand to me and all my friends, making this night one for the history books. Check them out next time they come to town, well worth the time.
Pearl Jam took the stage at 11p.m., to a hungry crowd who were biting and clawing to get to the front, literally. The bruises on my ribs and wrists are battle wounds from the entire pit constantly surging on me, with only a steel barricade to brace the impact. I did however have the joy of being stuck directly in front of lead guitarist Mike McCready, who’s always a ham for the crowd. Complete with a behind-the-head guitar solo during “Evenflow,” and a constant confetti of guitar picks for the fans, McCready kept the everyone occupied as Vedder struggled his way through the show, obviously feeling the effects of the day. His wine bottle that usually flows all night was empty the entire set from what I saw. I think that pill he popped had him taken care of for the night.
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"Release" opened the set, with 50,000 people screaming “release me” at the top of their lungs, letting the band know from the start that everyone was ready to see something special. It was indeed the start to yet another amazing night. Looking rested and relaxed, with a day off and a stop in Amsterdam under their belts, Vedder mentioned the spectacular cloudscape sunset happening in the distance and how they “could play all night.” The band was on top of their game, ripping through hell raisers like “Go,” “Whipping,” “Leash” and “Blood” with savage aggression and no hints of losing their edge. Countered with rare gems like “Nothingman” and an extended version of Daughter, with snippets of W.M.A. and "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. II" added to the jam, the band did not disappoint even with a shorter than normal set. By the end of the night, after the closing set of Alive, Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young), and Yellow Ledbetter, all there was left to do was go on a quest to find munchies and relive another night of musical bliss.
An enthusiastic, energized and inebriated Vedder fed off the thirsty, beer-drinking crowd, smashing a stage light to death with his mic stand, sending a message just how urgent the night was and how nothing would get in his way. Things were going to be different tonight. Feeling the overwhelming open arms of the local crowd, many who have never seen the band live before, he took the opportunity to thank everyone for the hospitality, asked if speaking in English was alright, and took the opportunity to take a request from a fan, offering up a rare deep cut performance of "Rats".
I can has more showz next yr, yes?