The Year in Music, The Year in Song (Part III)

Dec 27th, 2010 in Music

Top 12 Concerts of 2010

With respect to the concert scene in 2010, it was an embarrassment of riches, and we got out to a couple or two shows this year.  Not surprisingly, many of the best concerts were delivered by musicians that we had yearned for years to see live, but had not managed to see before. The following were the highlights of this habitual adrenalized, soul-seeking anodyne known as “the concert.”

1. Thom Yorke at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Thom, Flea and the lads lit it up (literally and figuratively) in April at our great Bowl, once again making Santa Barbara Yorke-town.  Yeah, we’d prefer a whole Radiohead, the best live band extant on the planet, but we’ll “settle” for Thom Yorke’s tantalizing musical trills and dance tantrums any day of the year.

Here’s a glimpse of the Bowl show (Videotape, solo piano), and below it a representative segment (Cymbal Rush from Coachella).  But perhaps best is the video at bottom of the title track of his solo album, “Eraser,” done live at the “secret” Echoplex shows from 2009.  Check out Nigel Goodrich’s fine harmony vocals.  Yorke (together with Goodrich and the rest of the Radiohead regality) is simply the creative musical titan of the last decade (at a minimum).  We’ve yet to witness a false musical move.

2.  Arcade Fire–Berkeley Greek Theater

We had never seen Arcade Fire live before this show at the Greek, which fulfilled all our expectations and then some.

Check out their show-stopping (literally) performance of Wake Up below.

3.  The National–Wiltern Theater (Hollywood)

In May we were Nationalized once again.  The National delivered their best album of their careers and continue to evolve as a band live (which we thought impossible after their shows in prior years).

4.  Pavement–Fox Theater (Pomona)

We had waited forever to see Pavement, and they did not disappoint at the Fox Theater despite the built up expectations.  The reunited Pavement gave it their all, and we were mesmerized.

5.  Avett Brothers–Arlington Theater

We caught the Avett Brothers at the Arlington in April, and were blown away by the power and poignancy of their live act.  Not to be missed.  These boys have heart and soul for days.

6.  Sufjan Stevens–Paramount Theatre (Oakland)

We traveled to Oakland to see Sufjan for the first time and were not disappointed (sure, we would have liked a couple more of the banjo-and-hush era songs, but hey).  Sufjan and his entourage of sprites and merry men filled the Paramount with glorious sound.  All hail the new Sufjan!

7.  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros–Lobero Theater and Soho (in that order)

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros doubled up on Santa Barbara, and we benefited greatly from the other Musical Manson and his band of beatific beauties.  We were introduced to their live show at Soho in March and then, as hard as it was to imagine (and overcoming our skepticism), they took their act to a higher plane in July at the Lobero.  Don’t miss ’em next time.

8.  Joanna Newsom–Lobero Theater

Joanna Newsom brought her jaw-drop-inducing talents to Santa Barbara at the end of July.  We caught the show with our family members that hail from Newsom’s Nevada City, but who had not seen/heard her previously.  We were all impressed and moved by this enfante terrible.

9.  Randy Newman–Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (San Francisco)

In a year of firsts, this was the first time that we had seen national-musical-treasure, Randy Newman.  He had the Hardly Strictly audience (including the Felice Brothers and many other musicians) in the palm of his hand the whole time with his majestic flood of songs from the last 40 years.

10.  Fruit Bats–Soho

We caught the Fruit Bats at Soho on January 27th and their mega-melodic ways held sway with us.  It was a great way to kick off the concert year.

11. Local Natives/Love Language at Soho

Local Natives and Love Language brought a great one-two punch to Soho.  The Love Language softened us up with the surprise jab, and Local Natives knocked us out with the confirmatory roundhouse hook.

12. Hosannas at Muddy Waters

We had heard rumblings about this Portland band.  When we first saw them as a full band on May 28th we realized what all the huzzahs had been about.  We also caught them as a duo when they came through this fall, and while the Laws brothers’ talent is undeniable, we missed the full band sound, which had floored us in May.  Here’s to hoping the Laws add some additional players in 2011 to fully realize the power of their live show.

Honorable Mention Concerts (in no particular order):  Tokyo Police Club–Velvet Jones; The Antlers/Phantogram–Troubadour; Avi Buffalo–Jensen’s; The Lonely Forest/Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin at Muddy Waters; Conor Oberst/Felice Brothers at Soho; Yo La Tengo–Velvet Jones April/2010; Chief–March 14th;  Chief/Dawes–Soho; Brendan Benson at Velvet Jones Feb. 2010; Dan Zanes–Campbell Hall; Les Shelleys–Soho; Carolina Chocolate Drops–Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival; Gillian Welch–Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival; Trombone Shorty–Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival; Delta Spirit–Velvet Jones; Built to Spill–Velvet Jones; Woods/Real Estate–Jensens’ Main Stage; Freelance Whales/Watercolor Paintings.

Most Disappointing Concert:  Beach House at Soho

Word to the wise:  all you computer/machine-based duets out there, hear ye!  You have a world of indifference to overcome if all you’ve got is a computer and some gadgets to regale, and you don’t come out from behind or rise above your keyboards, and find some way to better lift us with your act.  Beach House fell into this category at Soho, and we won’t waste our time on them live again until they return with a full band.  Their stifling act was D.O.A. in the wake of full-throttle, full-instrument openers, Middle East.  Hear ye, hear ye!


  • Doubtful that 2011 will be able to top 2010 with all the first-time viewings in 2010 (AF, Sufjan, Pavement, Thom Yorke solo, Randy Newman, Avett Brothers, Newsom, Edward Sharpe, etc.), but will rely upon Club Mercy and the up and comers to provide the thrills. Only the National made this year’s list amongst bands we’d seen previously. And they were better than ever. Tour de force.

  • ah, yes. Arcade Fire, Sufjan, The National… what a great year it twas.

  • […] are touring in support of fine new albums.  We’ve written about both bands before, and the Fruit Bats show at Soho in 2010 was one of our Concerts of the Year. To get prepped, check out the Fruit Bat performances below and then go HERE to check out the […]


Comments have been closed for this post.