It was easy to rattle off my top four shows of 2010, but after that it became a real struggle to sort out which live experiences were so satisfyingly exalting that they left an indelible impression. Plus all these concerts had last year's bounty (NIN, Jesus Lizard, St. Vitus), and SxSW '09 to compete with.
And it wasn't due to lack of attendance, either. It pains me to say it, but Iron Maiden's set list on the "Final Frontier" tour left a lot to be desired. I made it to the first Faith No More show at the Williamsburg waterfront, but they were never a band I was particularly infatuated with. Seeing them was cool, but there were no transcendent moments (sorry, Elise). I still find myself wondering if I'd be able to hear them on my side of the river at Styuvesant Cove Park while sitting on a bench with a 40.
But there were still some incredible highlights this year that included my virginal pilgrimage to the ATP NY Fest, plus the access I've had to dozens of eclectic artists when they played the P.C. Richard & Son Theater for my day job. I can now officially say I've seen the Doobie Brothers.
With that, here are my selections for Top 10 Shows of 2010, in order.
[Also, read this important addendum about Prince at MSG.]
Iggy & The Stooges / Sleep @ ATP NY
It would have pleased me enough to simply watch Iggy Pop, Mike Watt & the Stooges perform all of Raw Power during an energetic set in an amazing-sounding room. But then I got to see (and literally FEEL) Sleep play for more than two hours immediately afterward. Throw in the wonderment of a nearby saucer-eyed concertgoer with a penchant for throwing out glow sticks, plus a cover of Ozzy Osbourne's "Over the Mountain" into the mix, and you suddenly have my vote for concert experience of the year.
Altar + the Rest of ATP NY
By far, the most eclectic, well-curated, greatest vibes-having festivals must be put on by All Tomorrows Parties, and my inaugural experience at this year's Catstkills gathering will surely not be my last. Where else could I see members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ron Jeremy and the body-punishing Altar ritual all within an hour? Other bands I got to see included Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Dungen, White Hills, Shellac, the Breeders, Hope Sandoval, Fucked Up, T Model Ford, Explosions in the Sky (above) plus several others. I'll be back next year, Monticello.
Concrete Blonde @ Webster Hall
Who knew Concrete Blonde were so good? Who knew Johnette Napolitano would still be so hot in her 50s? Who knew they were so lesbian-centric? Originally, I bought a ticket to watch CB perform Bloodletting in its entirety, the only album I really knew inside out (the only other album I had in my teens was Mexican Moon), but when I came home from the show, impressed with both Napolitano's well-preserved voice, and how she used it to belt out everything from "Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man" to "Heal It Up" to "Tomorrow, Wendy," I bought the whole damn discography.
Dax Riggs @ Mercury Lounge
The hypnotic Southern vampire charms of Dax Riggs have been discussed a great deal in the press. But really, it's all about the way he's able to transform simply-structured songs into smoldering, sinuous pantie droppers. To see him live is to want to throw 'em at him and his pillowy lips. Meow.
Grinderman @ Best Buy Theater
Though I was sadly too sick to really enjoy the raw, sonic nature of Grinderman's NY show, I quickly noted that having Nick Cave sing into my face would have to be on my ultimate bucket list. And with multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis in on the act—and almost upstaging Cave—this was one show I'm glad I didn't miss.
Eyehategod @ Europa
One of the band's best, highest energy sets in recent years. This affair only seemed to get better with every round of whiskey. Bower Power 4 life.
Weedeater @ The Studio/Webster Hall
This show was one of those oddly exalted affairs that was as surreal as it was vaulting, and filled with great vibes. Weedeater put on a thunderous set filled with sludgy Southern-fried metal, during which bandleader Dixie Dave took liberal sips from a bottle of 'Tussin that he taped to the stage wall. Boy, did those people in the house for Webster Hall's concurrent '80s Prom party seem confused when they walked in to catch a glipse.
Boris / Torche / Russian Circles @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
It was loud. Very, very loud. This Blackened Series concert found the perfect formula for curating bands. Russian Circles' trance-inducing instrumental set showcased a band on the verge; now in their prime, Torche proved they were worth all the attention they were getting with Songs for Singles; and Boris played with the confidence of a well-seasoned act. Well done, Adam Shore.
Duffy @ P.C. Richard & Son Theater
Through my day job, I get to see a lot of artists play tiny, intimate shows at this private venue. During the past year, I've witnessed everyone from Adam Lambert to Robyn to Heart live. I even caught Selena Gomez ripping into Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" before warping it into Jason Derulo's "In My Head" during sound check. But by far, my favorite time was watching little Welsh singer Duffy (she of "Mercy" fame) perform with a 15-piece band that included horns, string sections and synchronized hand-clapping all the while she crooned away in her Dusty Springfield-esque voice.
Bad Religion @ Irving Plaza
This was the first performance of Bad Religion's three-night stand on a 30th Anniversary tour that promised to span their entire career. And it fucking did. Not only did BR reach back to their infancy, but they also covered all the hits from "Do What You Want," "Suffer," "Along the Way" and "I Want to Conquer the World" to "Latchkey Kids," "We're Only Gonna Die" and "No Control." Anyone unhappy with the set list can suck it.
5 Shows I Enjoyed Completely Unironically:
Ratt @ Irving Plaza
Pat Benatar @ Nokia Theater
Vampires Everywhere @ The Studio/Webster Hall (ok, maybe a little ironically)
Lil' Kim @ Irving Plaza
Death Angel @ Gramercy Theater
And the Rest:
Bucket List Check-Off - Greg Dulli @ Bowery Ballroom; ZZ Top @ Beacon Theater
Weakest Performance - Entombed @ Gramercy Theater
Best Redemption - Social Distortion @ Roseland
Why Was I There? - Fintroll / Moonsorrow @ Gramercy Theater
Falling Out of Love is Such Sweet Sorrow - H.I.M. @ Irving Plaza x2!
Can't Believe It - I haven't seen Clutch once this year. Feels weird.