For this edition of Five on Five, five of us chose our five favorite concerts from the “aughts” and below are the results. We have everything from Ricky Martin to Paul McCartney for answers. Radiohead made the list three times, and almost a fourth time. We like what Dan had to say about this best:
“What defines a favorite concert usually boils down to a mix of four elements: the performance quality of the headliner, a combination of headliner and openers, the company I was with, or just the general excitement and atmosphere of the event. The size of the venue can also help, as a band one loves in a smaller, intimate space makes the connection much more personal and meaningful than seeing them in a field 400 yards away. Usually the best gigs have multiple qualifiers, thereby elevating them above the rest of the fabulous concerts.”
1. Radiohead @ The Tweeter Center, Mansfield, Massachusettes. August 13, 2003
This concert makes the list simply because it was my first “real” show. I’d been to others, but never a big-ticket headliner like Radiohead. This show came during the Hail to the Thief tour, and for my 17-year-old mind, it was exactly where I wanted to be. My friends and I put together our dream set lists on the way there, and we all ended up getting our favorite songs. The band came on for two encores, and even from our crappy seats, watching Thom Yorke dance around was a huge treat. Years later, during an insatiable Pavement phase, I learned that the band I’d seen open for Radiohead was Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. I’d seen one of my future favorite musicians without even knowing it; a nice little bonus, I’d say. Set List
2. Múm @ 6th & I Historic Synagogue, Washington, D.C. November 7, 2007
The spacious hall of the 6th & I Synagogue made for a perfect venue to see Múm perform: the band’s music is lush and full, and filled the entire space with beautiful reverberations. Catching the show with a few friends, we were awestruck by how great Múm sounded. The best part of the show was towards the end, when the band requested that we take out the kazoos and harmonicas that were available in the entrance and play along with the band. They’re definitely the kind of band that benefits greatly from large, echoing spaces, and I was fortunate enough to catch them at one of the best.
3. Fuck Buttons @ The Rock and Roll Hotel, Washington, D.C. March 30, 2008
Originally, Caribou was to be the headliner, but for some reason was unable to make it. The venue made it up to us by bumping Fuck Buttons up to a full set and reducing ticket costs to five dollars. I’d heard “Sweet Love for Planet Earth” and was pretty intrigued by their sound. On-stage, the two really turned up the volume. I will never forget Benjamin John Power screaming his guts out into a little Fisher-Price microphone, and the price was certainly right.
4. The Magnetic Fields @ Lisner Auditorium, Washington, D.C. October 26, 2008
Seeing The Magnetic Fields perform live is very different from hearing their studio cuts: to begin with, they perform with an entirely acoustic lineup (which apparently has to do with an ear condition Stephen Merritt has), and with an album like Distortion, that means fairly drastic rearrangements of songs. Something about hearing their songs with other people made lyrics that were once very personal and affective funnier than when coming through headphones. Through two sets, The Magnetic Fields gave an impeccable performance, and I left the show with a new insight into their music, which means the performers more than did their jobs.
5. The Disco Biscuits @ The House of Blues, Boston, Massachusettes. February 28, 2009
I went into this show having never heard a note of The Disco Biscuits, but intending on meeting some old college friends in town for the show. The first set went by, sounding pretty good, but nothing mind-blowing. And then the second set came. The entire venue became the wildest dance party I’d ever seen: everyone was completely locked into the same groove. Messing with song forms and jamming extensively, the band had us all enraptured from the get-go, and when they dropped into a 25-minute cover of “Run Like Hell,” it was all over for me.
1. Radiohead @ USANA Amphitheatre, Salt Lake City, Utah. August 28, 2003.
This is the show for which I’ve based all other shows on. From the opening song, “There There” to energetic renditions of “Idioteque” and “The National Anthem” to ghostly and haunting renditions of “Pyramid Song” and “You and Whose Army?” Radiohead proved why many consider them the best in the entire world. They also had an impressive light show, even warning people with signs as they entered the venue that “Seizures May Occur.” What made it even better was being only ten feet away from the band, right up there with the most dedicated fans as we sang the lyrics with the band for every song. Thom Yorke was having fun, being silly and making faces at the camera on his piano. They also did two encores and it seemed like they were surprised at how energetic and excited the crowd was. What do you expect when you are the best there is?
2. Beck @ The Kiva Auditorium, Albuquerque, New Mexico. June 23, 2006.
A lot has been written about this specific Beck concert tour, but I knew nothing about it going into the show and I’m glad that I didn’t. For this tour, Beck hired puppeteers to control marionettes that looked like every person in his band. Instead of projecting images of the actual band playing, they projected images of the marionettes mimicking what the band was doing on stage. It was a flawless representation, as the marionettes stayed in sync with the band at all times. However, this is just one amazing aspect of this show. After playing for around 45 minutes, Beck announced that the band was really hungry and was going to eat dinner. A kitchen table was brought out and the entire band sat down and started to eat. This was a nice way to let Beck stand on stage by himself and play acoustic songs off of his more emotional record Sea Change. Once he had played a few songs, the band began to play percussion on their plates and glasses with their forks until they worked into such a frenzy that they went back to their instruments.
3. The Shins @ The El Rey Theater, Albuquerque, New Mexico. April 10th, 2007.
Most people don’t know this, but The Shins are originally from Albuquerque, though they never got big until they left this city. Several years before this show, they played here and were constantly booed, so angry were people that they got big in another city. People felt like if they had become famous here, it would have opened it up for numerous other acts that are also in this town. I was nervous before the show that the same thing might happen again which would totally ruin the experience. However, the show marked their triumphant return home and not a single person booed. They opened the show with the explosive, “Sleeping Lessons” and it is still one of the most energetic and emotional opening songs I’ve ever seen anyone play. They pulled songs from all of their albums and were outwardly happy that the crowd was responding to them so well. Other favorites include “Know Your Onion!” and “Saint Simon.” It is not often that you get to see a band’s redemption and I was glad that I was there to see it.
4. Ben Folds with Rufus Wainwright @ The Fillmore, Denver, Colorado. August 16th, 2005.
I always liked Ben Folds but I didn’t love his music. This is important because it helps prove his ability as a live act as he put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The show was opened by Rufus Wainwright who played a lot of great songs but could never quite seem to reign in the distracted crowd. However, when Ben Folds took the stage, all of that changed. To this day, out of all the concerts I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a lot), I’ve never seen anyone who could so easily talk to the crowd between songs. It was almost as if we were his buddies hanging out on a Friday night. His songs were energetic and silly and a blast to hear and see live. Before playing one song, he told us, “This is a sad song” and then went into his own rendition of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” He also used the crowd as a brass section, splitting the crowd into two, and giving each side certain “Ba, ba, ba’s” to sing while he played the next song. The highlight of the night though was when he brought out Rufus Wainwright to help him cover George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” That song seems like the best way to sum up his show; some seriousness with mostly silliness. It was a blast.
5. TV on the Radio @ The Diamond Ballroom, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. May 18th, 2009.
Where would you expect to find one of the biggest up-and-coming acts in the music business? Certainly not in an old western bar with a dirt parking lot, down the street from a Budweiser factory. However, that’s exactly where I found them and the show was amazing. Since the venue was a bit small, it was a claustrophobic and intimate show where the emotions from each song were almost palpable. The crowd worked up into a frenzy for songs like “Wolf Like Me” and “Golden Age” and was brought almost on the verge of tears for the deeply emotional “Family Tree.” It made it better knowing that most people in the entire world might not get another chance at seeing the band in such an intimate setting.
1. Ricky Martin @ Plaza de toros, Tijuana, Mexico. Sep 27 , 2007
I have never-ever had so much fun on a soccer field in Tijuana. The show began with a video of Ricky Martin frolicking in the water like a muscle bound mermaid. He wore only a white wrap designed to cover his lower body parts that may have been inappropriately touched during his days in Menudo. Suddenly he burst out onto stage looking nothing like the Ricky in the video. He was tatted up, had a high top fade and a thinly lined beard popularized by white males that love hip-hop.
He started doing what Ricky does best: shaking. The show continued and Ricky performed a number of songs from his vast catalog. I expected to hear “Living La Vida Loca,” the “Living La Vida Loca” extended version, and finally the “Living La Vida Loca” remix featuring Lil’ Wayne, but based on the audience’s reaction, Ricky had a number of hit songs.
Ricky Martin’s performance was much more of a show than a concert, yet he was on point musically with a great voice and eclectic band. This combined with cheap beer, an overzealous crowd and a unique south of the border vibe-allowed for a great concert, even if I didn’t know most of the songs.
2. Coldplay@ The Forum, Inglewood, California. July 14th, 2008
It felt as if I was having an intimate look at a Coldplay dress rehearsal, only in a dirty arena that needs to be torn down as soon as possible. Most of all it was inspiring to watch a band in new-tour action that could have relied on formulaic songs and likely continued on as one of the world’s biggest bands, but instead chose reinvention. I wasn’t a complete believer before, but that night they played their asses off. Set List
3. Lupe Fiasco @ Belly Up Tavern, Solano Beach, California. January 15th, 2008.
By 2008 I was fed up with hip-hop. I was unable to “Walk it Out” without my bones cracking and the music had morphed into extended and meaningless ringtones.
But seeing Lupe Fiasco in concert was a wakeup call. He had a live band and the people on stage with him did more than just walk around and look at the audience as if they were ready to beat some ass. He rapped effortless and maintained a strong voice, rare for live hip-hop shows that often include the sounds of out of shape artists gasping for breath.
Although I was somewhat unfamiliar with Lupe’s music, I left as a fan. More importantly, I regained a curiosity for new hip-hop artists that were challenging the mainstream.
4. Radiohead @ Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, California. August 27th, 2008
I was apprehensive about forking over my hard earned money to see Radiohead live. While I enjoy their music, listening to it for more than 30 minutes leaves me full of angst and dangerously close to carving “Fake Plastic Trees” on my forearm with a flame-heated butter knife. However, it’s not often that they tour in California so I handed over 200-odd dollars for a couple of tickets. (Death to Ticketmaster!)
Radiohead had little interaction with the audience, performed their songs just as they sound on CD and the audience was lethargic and stoned-but somehow it worked. The band played for nearly three hours and kept me guessing by moving from early, obscure songs to current tracks from In Rainbows. The show also featured lasers that moved in sync with the music. Obviously this is not terribly creative, but when combined with large screen close-ups of Thom Yorke’s damaged eye it created an (insert Radiohead-esque term for a disturbed, yet beautiful) experience.
I left the show feeling that the performance of “Paranoid Android” alone was worth the money…well, minus the shady Ticketmaster fees.
5) Beenie Man @ Belly Up Tavern, Solano Beach, California. 2001
This concert took place in a small venue stacked with hippies who were far too stoned to understand Beenie Man’s homophobic lyrics. He would switch from fast paced dancehall to mellow reggae, constantly losing and regaining the crowd. But the vibe soon changed; well at least it did for me.
After my third drink I became paranoid and obnoxious. As I look back on it I’m sure my drink was spiked. I remember verbally accosting a poor young woman who made the mistake of refusing me a dance when I wasn’t even trying to dance with her.
I was then carried out of the venue.
I returned home and was wakened by a buck naked roommate asking for a condom. I grabbed one for him, walked to our kitchen for a glass of water and saw his date sitting on our couch. She strongly resembled the Notorious B.I.G. None of this would have been possible without the Beenie Man concert.
1. Paul McCartney @ Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana. October 5th, 2002.
The guy played Beatles, Wings, covers and originals for three and a half hours and even gave his band a 45 minute break in the middle of the set. THAT is a performance. Oh, and he was a Beatle!
2. Foy Vance @ Buffalo Billiards, Austin, Texas. March 14th, 2008.
As I reported deep in my SXSW coverage, Foy Vance put on one of the most amazing live shows I’ve ever seen. Armed with only a laptop, acoustic guitar, and a stellar voice, this guy painted passion all over the room. At one point he made an entire bar (bartenders included) stop what they were doing to see what was happening on stage. Hearing this white Irish guy preach the gospel, I had chills so bad I thought I was getting sick.
3. The Soledad Brothers @ The Southgate House, Newport, Kentucky. April 15th, 2006.
Imagine hooking up with the hottest girl on the planet in a one-night stand, then the next morning she says “That was great. See ya, I’m moving to NEPTUNE!” That feeling sums up my experience of this show. I had recently fallen in love with The Soledad Brothers (and a young Heartless Bastards opened the show) and this was my first real experience at hard crashing, dirty, what I call “fuckin’ blues.” Ben Swank smashed his drums like he was trying to put out a fire and European multi-instrumentalist Dechman was on hand, mostly impressing on the keyboards. Song after song gave a feeling of being locked in with the band and then my heart was crushed after the show to learn from Johnny Walker that the band was breaking up. This was their second to last show ever.
4. Muse @ Top Cat’s, Cincinnati, Ohio. April 24th, 2004.
I still have no idea how this venue that held about 150 people landed Muse. It was sold out and my friends and I were lucky enough to meet Muse’s tour manager at a bar up the street and he got us tickets. The place was so small (and loud!) that sweat just ran down the body the whole time as we were all packed like sardines. The band played like they were in front of a crowd of thousands (check out the set list) and then the following week they did play for tens of thousands…at Coachella.
5. Monotonix @ The Sunset Tavern, Seattle, Washington. September 28th, 2008.
Okay, well now it’s been over a year and a half, and I still don’t really know how to explain what I saw. Again, just look at the pictures and video from this show. I guess it was just so silly that it was brilliant. The show started in one corner of the room and ended up the street on a corner.
1. Daft Punk @ Keyspan Park, Brooklyn, New York . August 9th, 2007
There are very few bands that can make the experience of a larger venue actually better, but Daft Punk pulled this off with a fantastic light and laser show located just behind the two musicians. The fact that they were wearing helmets and the listeners could not see a thing that they were doing meant that it did not matter what level of visuals one had of the musicians. Instead it emphasized the beautiful beats and rhythms that Daft Punk is so famous for. The weather was perfect and the company was fantastic. Daft Punk won me over, though, with the seemingly endless grooves that they created, stopping and starting, fast and slow, over and over, teasing and pleasing all night long. It is, to date, my favorite gig. This tour was so popular and successful that they put out the Alive 2007 album later that year, capturing one of their Paris performances.
2. Franz Ferdinand and The Delays @ The Electric Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. September 10, 2004
At the height of Franz Ferdinand’s hype following their first album they rolled into Philadelphia with perhaps the perfect tour mates in The Delays. Both of these bands had one album at the time and they plowed through most of their recorded material thereby pleasing everyone in the audience with their set lists. The music was played sharply and the general tone of the evening was excitement for the future. After the show I felt that the two bands should never tour without the other as it was so perfectly done.
3. Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Blonde Redhead, Les Savy Fav @ Randall’s Island, New York. October 6, 2007
It was a fabulous bill in a large outdoor field on a picture perfect fall day with a great group of friends. This concert had it all. Arcade Fire were the headliner and that seemed to be who most concert-goers came to see, but I remember hearing random people in the crowd express amazement at how good LCD Soundsystem were, indicating that they had been won over with their performance. Blonde Redhead is a fascinating group and Les Savy Fav were up to their usual hijinxes. Arcade Fire, though, really pulled out all the stops and enraptured the audience with an emotional and energetic night. They played all of the crowd-pleasers and favorites and really did a fantastic job with the night.
4. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Warlocks @ The 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C. September 18, 2003
This was the date a destructive storm passed through the nation’s capital. The remnants of Hurricane Isabel had done considerable damage to the area and most places were without power, including my own house for the next four days. Seeing the clouds circle in from the north on a mid-September day created an eerie aura and everyone was generally on edge. Somehow, though, the 9:30 Club still had power and employed a “the show must go on” attitude that I loved. Although the show was technically sold out, there was only a sparse crowd there who were willing to brave the elements when we arrived. Slowly the club filled out (but not to capacity) allowing for a small members-only feel to it, as if only those select few were able to witness something special and be able to reminisce about it later. The music of BRMC and The Warlocks was the perfect setting to such a strange night. They knew their grooves and knew how to just throw caution to the wind and have fun. BRMC rocked out to “Whatever Happened to My Rock N Roll (Punk Song)” and that was the most accurate way to tell Mother Nature that we weren’t going to let it ruin a good time. I still think of BRMC as a band I want to listen to during a hurricane.
5. Less Than Jake, Anti-Flag, New Found Glory @ The Glasshouse, Pomona, California. March 8, 2001
Back in my more punk-oriented days this gig absolutely floored me. Less Than Jake are fantastic performers and really know how to capture the angsty teenagers with a combined need of rebellion and energy. They lived up to their expectations as usual. This concert was also around the release date of New Found Glory’s self-titled album so although they were the first opener they were perhaps the most anticipated member of the triple bill. Anti-Flag were solid veterans of the scene contributing to the night’s loud and raucous overtones. Everyone there was excited and energetic and the bands had a beautiful harmony going with their audience. It was a phenomenal night of driving rock.