2009 was another great year for some outstanding concerts that I had an opportunity to attend. The high point was my first trip to Indio, CA for the 10th annual Coachella Festival, and unless I am still jobless come April I plan to make that an annual event. Three shows from that weekend made my Top 10 for concerts in 2009. Without further adieu, starting at number 10, here we go!
10. Cut Off Your Hands – June 16 at the Rhythm Room. WOW! Incredible band out of New Zealand, they were on tour in support of their full-length debut You and I. Within the intimate confines of the Rhythm Room this band absolutely smoked, unleashing their indie pop aesthetic on the small crowd. Cut Off Your Hands really knows how to blend pop with a melodic punk edge, and amps the energy level to a fever pitch when they play live. A stellar performance!
9. The Father Figures – July 18 at the Ruby Room. The debut show from this new local powerhouse, The Father Figures take the style of old school post-punk and update that genre for the 21st century. This three-piece is comprised of three Arizona music veterans. As with any debut show there were a few rough spots, but the energy level and professionalism of the three members made up for the occasional hiccup. Their delivery that evening of Typical Bible Beating Hypocrite was mind-blowing. This is a band that could cause some serious damage if they stick with things!
8. Cloud Cult – May 17 at the Rhythm Room. I saw this Minneapolis band for two songs at Monolith 2007, saw nearly their entire set at Coachella this past April (I left early to get up close to see the number one show on this list), but this was the first time seeing them as a headliner. Incredible band, incredible live show and incredible indie ethic. Touring in support of Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-partying Through Tornadoes), this ensemble delivered a set that the huge Rhythm Room crowd responded to with definite appreciation. I love to see a band respond with a sincere sense of flattery the way Cloud Cult did, and as the set progressed their energy level continued to increase. The music was outstanding, and the opportunity to finally see up close artist Scott West create a painting while the band is playing was remarkable. This band has some of the nicest, most genuine members to top things off; I had a chance to speak with the majority of the band after the show and their gracious attitude made me admire them even more. Check them out!
7. Santana – September 12 at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. One of my closest friends is a big Santana fan, and I had a chance to take him to Las Vegas for this concert to celebrate his birthday. I grew up listening to Santana all the time because my Dad always played the reel to reel he had of the first two albums on Saturdays while doing yard work. I grew up sick of Santana, but age and an appreciation for good music finally led me to the realization he is an amazing artist. What a show! Carlos Santana is the first rock and roll artist to take up residence in Las Vegas. The show is called Supernatural: A Trip Through the Hits, and Carlos Santana literally takes you from the beginning of his Hall of Fame career with songs such as Jingo, Oye Como Va, Evil Ways and Black Magic Woman, to the present with hits such as Smooth. My friend remarked the show was more of a jam session than a structured concert. I tend to agree, and the solos Carlos Santana unleashed on the appreciative crowd really proved that theory. I am on my way back in February; Mr. P, you are in for a huge treat!
6. Sir James Galway – March 6 at the Mesa Arts Center. The only downer of this show was the low attendance. That really bothered me since Sir James Galway is a true legend and deserves a sell-out anytime he performs. Oh wait, this is Arizona, culture is not exactly a standard! Anyway, this was my second opportunity to see this flute virtuoso, having had the pleasure a few years earlier seeing him perform with the Phoenix Symphony. As much as I loved that performance, the intimacy of this show made it an even more memorable event. Sir James Galway takes the art of playing the flute to a unique level. “The Man With the Golden Flute”, just as he did when I first saw him perform, danced around the stage as he played. He possesses a warm and charming personality, engaging in conversation with audience members in between pieces. I am in awe when I watch this gentleman perform, his precision is that flawless. A wonderful and kind man as well, I had a brief opportunity to speak with him a bit after the recital, had him sign his latest CD O’Reilly Street, and he even took the time to pose for a picture with me. Classical music may not be at the top of my list, but this is one artist I will never miss performing live!
5. Sir Paul McCartney – April 17 at Coachella. Really, did I get a chance to see one of The Beatles live this year??? No words can describe the magnitude of the legend of Sir Paul McCartney, but what I can tell you is how Paul McCartney changed the attitude of a lot of Coachella goers this year. I read many comments leading up to the event that he was too old and not hip enough to play a festival like Coachella. Comments like that of course came from the kids that were more interested in getting high and hanging out the whole time at the Sahara Tent. Paul McCartney delivered an incredible performance for the ages that got better and better as the set progressed. He pulled out solo classics, songs from The Fireman, Wings and of course, many great songs from The Beatles. The guy wore me out; I left a few songs into the second encore, after he had already been playing for about 2 1/2 hours!
4. Jimmy Eat World and No Knife – March 7 at the Marquee Theatre. Jimmy Eat World’s watershed album Clarity was released 10 years ago, and most long-time fans proclaim this is the best album. I agree. To commemorate the event Jimmy Eat World scheduled a mere 10 dates on the Clarity Live Tour, in which the band was to play the album in its entirety. This was easily the most insane and largest crowd I have ever been a part of at the Marquee Theatre, and the band fed off the overwhelming enthusiasm and loyalty of their hometown fans. The first set was all Clarity, and I was absolutely blown away by the power and beauty of each track. I kept looking at the two friends I was with and all we could say over and over was “Holy ____!” The band came out for one encore, playing some b-sides and of course, a couple of their hit singles from Bleed American. The highlight of the set had to be the killer version of No Sensitivity that you can now find on the reissue of Bleed American. Opening the evening was San Diego’s own No Knife, friends of Jimmy Eat World and coming out of retirement to play a few shows of the Clarity Live Tour. They smoked, and in many respects may have delivered an even better set than the headliner! I never had a chance to see this amazing band during their original existence, so this made the evening even more special!
3. Sunny Day Real Estate and The Jealous Sound – October 16 at the Paramount Theatre. Part two of my three concerts during my vacation in Seattle, this was the finale of the Sunny Day Real Estate reunion tour with the original line-up. Yep, Nate Mendel was back where he belongs, slinging the bass for this fabulous foursome. The band played one new track they wrote while on this tour, one song from their first post-original breakup album How it Feels to Be Something On, and one b-side. Other than that, this was a showcase of the stunning material released on Diary and The Pink Album. Emo is such an unfair tag to put on this band, because they took that genre to dizzying heights back in the early nineties before that style became the pathetic excuse for music it is today. SDRE delivered every song on this evening with such emotion, such power, such intensity, that all I could do was sit and watch their work in awe. This was one of those shows that needs to be documented on disc and DVD. The fact the band was originally from Seattle and wrapping up the tour in front of the loyal hometown fans added to the special atmosphere on this rainy Seattle evening. Opening the show was another band that came out of retirement in 2009, The Jealous Sound. Outstanding set, focusing on their killer disc released in 2003, Kill Them With Kindness. What an amazing night!
2. A Place to Bury Strangers – April 17 at Coachella. September of 2008 I was at the second Monolith Festival at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. I caught the last song and a half from New York’s A Place to Bury Strangers, and it was, at that time, one of the most frightening concert experiences of my life. This three piece band was so loud and so intense; I had not witnessed anything like it since Psychocandy-era Jesus and Mary Chain. I vowed to see them again the first chance I got, and once I saw they were playing at Coachella this year that made going an essential thing. Folks, I showed up late to see Paul McCartney and left a great set from the Silversun Pickups early, just to be up close to see APTBS! My only mistake was standing right in front of one of the huge speakers for their set, but what an exhilarating pain! This band does not mess around. They strode onstage, set up their own equipment, then delivered one of the most intense onslaughts of musical fury I have ever had the honor to witness. I don’t care what kind of music you like. You HAVE to see this band at least once, they are that incredible. The finale to the set Oceans, the last song from their self-titled debut, ranks as one of my all-time favorite moments in concert history.
1. Bob Mould Band – April 18 at Coachella. It only makes sense that this legendary artist, for whom I traveled to see on three occasions this year (March 30 at the Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis, October 15 at Neumos in Seattle) would claim this year’s number one spot. What an artist, what a vocalist, what a guitar player … This guy is truly unbelievable. Touring in support of his latest solo effort Life and Times, Bob delivered the most incredible set of Coachella 2009 and showed Generation Y what true alternative music really is. For the totally ignorant, Bob Mould was the frontman for both Husker Du and Sugar, two legends of independent music. Starting the set off with three Sugar classics, The Act We Act, A Good Idea and Changes, songs one, two and three from Sugar’s debut Copper Blue, the crowd of mainly 30 and 40 somethings knew we were in for one incredible experience. With all three supporting members of the Bob Mould Band present in bassist Jason Narducy, drummer Jon Wurster and keyboard player Richard Morel at this show, the music was delivered with the type of power any work from Bob Mould should be played. It blows me away Bob was 48 years old at the time of this show, and still delivers a cacophony of explosive power that artists half his age cannot replicate. 50 minutes after he took the stage I wandered away from the Gobi Stage at Coachella, still in awe of what I had just witnessed. Incredible. I look forward to the next time he is anywhere near Phoenix. Plugged in or acoustic, Bob Mould is an artist I will always take the time to go see.
There you have it folks. What were your top shows for 2009?