If you know one thing about me, know that I’m a sucker for a live show. Ask me to go with you and I’ll probably go if I care just a smidgen about the artist (especially if it’s free). Concerts are where the artist can bring you full circle to show you the emotion they put into their music. A CD will not let you see the tears that Ray LaMontagne sheds during his first performance at Bonnaroo to an overwhelmed crowd at That Tent. A CD will not let you smell the organ that catches fire while Grace Potter wows you for the first time at Voodoo Fest. A CD will not let you see the effort that Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals put into every note as they play an all-acoustic, three-hour, two-encore show at the mother of all live venues, The Ryman Auditorium. (Quick aside: I still get asked for copies of that show six years later. Here’s that setlist … let me know if you want a copy.) Now I love listening to CDs, don’t get me wrong there, but a concert is a memory that you share with those in attendance who are usually some of your best friends (or become that way soon after).
I have compiled a list of my favorite concerts from last year below and how I will remember them.
- The National – Ryman Auditorium – I have been keen to The National since late 2008 and this was the first time they made it to Nashville. They did play Bonnaroo in 2010 and they are one of the two reasons I wish I had gone (more on that later). I watched that webcast and had huge expectations for this show and I was still completely floored by the performance … hands-down favorite show of the year. Matt Berninger walking down our pew while belting out “Mr. November” encapsulates this show. The first time I have seen someone come to the audience from the stage in The Ryman.
- Flaming Lips – Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City – How better to end 2009 and start 2010 than a road-trip concert? Looking back personal-wise, I really needed this at the time. The Lips played their normal (well in their case abnormal) set and, after sharing the largest balloon drop with some great friends, played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album in its entirety. I cannot think of a better band to put their spin on an album.
- Garth Brooks – Bridgestone, show 2 – Who sells out nine shows at Bridgestone Arena? I’m talking packed. Open stage so there were no seats blocked off. I hate country and I loved this friggin show. Garth Brooks can entertain … plain and simple.
- Garth Brooks – Bridgestone, show 9 – Who goes to all nine Garth Brooks shows? Well, not me, but there were a couple of people with signs saying they did. The first show I went to was cut a little short since it started at 10:45, but this one got going about 9:30 and he was able to get more songs in. Also threw in a little “Piano Man” cover.
- Mumford & Sons – War Memorial Auditorium, sound check – (the second reason I wish I went to Bonnaroo 2010) Woohoo … I won me some tickets to see M&S do their sound check with about 40 others. It wasn’t much, but it was all I could get after their tickets sold out 15 minutes before I could get to the office to buy them. It was great though to see them joking around and playing a majority of each song to get all their levels right for those lucky few who would be there that night. They even teased us by playing a bit of “Shelter From the Storm” … perhaps foreshadowing playing with Bob Dylan at the Grammy’s. Oh, I hated those bastards that were going to the show that night.
- Mumford & Sons – War Memorial Auditorium, main show – Yah, I ended up being one of those lucky bastards that got to go after scalping a ticket. The two margaritas after the sound check convinced me that I had to see the full show. They played their entire CD, mixed in a couple of new songs, and ended the night with their friends (and Nashvillians) Old Crow Medicine Show. The two groups joined up to pleasure our ears with “Tell It To Me” and “Wagon Wheel” by OCMS and “Roll Away Your Stone” to end the night. They all then went on to surprise Nashville with their fourth show of the day (Grimey’s in between sound check and main show) at Station Inn which I almost went to, but decided I couldn’t call in sick to work the next day.
- many – Hangout Festival, Gulf Shores – I have a recipe for fun: mix almost equal parts of Black Crowes, Ben Harper & R7, Girl Talk, The Roots, Hightide Blues, Guster, Ray LaMontagne, OK Go, Michael Franti, Keller Williams, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Grace Potter, Matisyahu, Brett Dennen. Toss in sand. Pour in waves. Blast in Surprise Fireworks and Elevator Dance Party. Drizzle in actual showers (and a monsoon). And for that final touch, sprinkle “She Talks To Angels” finally after seeing The Black Crowes for the eighth time. I am so glad I stumbled upon this festival on Consequence of Sound.
- Girl Talk – parking lot of Mai – Halloween night, costumes, complete and utter fun. The after party dance in the empty parking lot extended the fun times
- Neil Young – Ryman Auditorium – I am not a huge fan of Mr. Young’s but a chance to see a show like this (solo) at The Ryman could not be passed up.
- The Avett Brothers – Ryman Auditorium – The show where you could only semi-dress up for Halloween. I may hate their newest album, but they put on one helluva live show.
Best of the Rest:
- B.B. King w/ Buddy Guy – Ryman Auditorium
- Rodrigo y Gabriela – Ryman Auditorium
- Drive-By Truckers – Mercy Lounge
- Van Morrison – BJCC – Birmingham, AL … won two tickets, sold the extra for $175 which paid for my gas money and food for driving down for the show and then back right after. I recommend seeing him, but he’s at the icon status where he plays for 90 minutes and is done.
- Widespread Panic – Ryman Auditorium – 1st show where I was there to see them and only them.
- Rites of Spring – Vanderbilt – So half of it was rained out … being close for Ben Harper & R7 was worth it. Plus Phoenix put on a great dance party set.
- Jill Andrews – somewhere on Music Row
- Sam Quinn (and Apache Relay) – 3rd and Lindsley
- Band of Horses – Live on the Green
- The Wailers – Live on the Green
- Dr. Dog – Live on the Green
I know I am leaving out some that will bring back some fond memories. I’ll have to dig deep in my brain and go through my ticket stubs for the rest.
Until next time, all I can say is that my life is pretty plain.