Sunday, January 5, 2014

Top 15 Concerts of 2013

I saw easily over 100 acts last year.  Probably closer to 200, but I'm not gonna go back and count.  Anyway, these were 15 of my favorites.

15. The Flaming Lips - 05.05, Beale St. Music Festival, Memphis, TN
From a four-foot-tall platform amid a nest of sparkling tubes and silver globes, Coyne coddled a baby doll while he sang over the nightmarish groove of "Look... The Sun is Rising."  At the song's end, he informed us, "This baby's sleeping," and set it aside for a louder, more frightening version of "The Terror," the screen behind him rapidly hurtling through a succession of sharply toothed mouths. (Read full review)

14. George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic - 08.22, Beekman Beer Garden, New York, NY
"Nothing Before Me But Thang" took on a heady liquid groove as Greg Thomas skimmed the surface with his saxophone.  Then keyboardist Jerome Rodgers stepped in, his staccato notes injecting a chilliness that turned the jam into the march of an army of ice creatures. (Read full review)

13. Galactic - 04.13, Terminal 5, New York, NY
Corey took the mic to rap "From the Corner to the Block" and passed it to Shaw to lead the crowd on a singalong of ODB's "Got Your Money."  And then he sang "Better Off Dead."  Not many singers can transition so smoothly from Ol' Dirty Bastard to Bill Withers, but then again, not many singers have the chops that David Shaw has. (Read full review)

12. Allen Stone - 08.02, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
This wasn't Allen Stone inciting a crowd to dance with a preacher-like authority; it was Allen Stone using his dazzling voice to make a room fall silent while his friend tickled the keys of a real, wooden piano.  Brent, on backup vocals, made hand signals to Josh to watch Allen for the end, but then found himself laughing in awe at Allen's vocal ability, not wanting the tune to stop. (Read full review)

11. Toots & the Maytals - 04.13, Terminal 5, New York, NY
At 70 years old, he sounds even better than he did on the Maytals' LPs from the 1960s and '70s.  Time has ripened his already rich vocal palate, and he made his way deftly through hit after hit: "Pressure Drop," "Time Tough," "Pomp & Pride," "Sweet & Dandy." (Read full review)

10. Jim James - 02.19, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
James came to the line "The power's goin' out," and the room abruptly went black.  The lights popped on again as the music returned, and the grinning audience immediately adapted to cheering "Woo!" on the return beat.  Those who listened to Regions of Light and were let down by the lack of guitar solos didn't have to worry about the Flying V going to waste, with James shredding a killer one here, and on two later tunes. (Read full review)

9. Jimmie's Chicken Shack - 01.11, Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD
"Let's bring out the original recipe in this bitch.  And I'm keepin' my shirt on," Jimi said, as the other founding Jims, McD and Chaney, took their spots with Haha and Ché.  The band was back!  McD's guitarwork showed hints of the blues that the night's previous axemen did not have, and despite not having all played together in 15 years, they were remarkably tight. (Read full review)

8. Gary Clark, Jr. - 05.05, Beale St. Music Festival, Memphis, TN
"Travis County" and "Ain't Messin' 'Round" charged up the audience for the set's biggest moment: Clark's re-interpretive "Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say" medley.  While returning to "Stone" from Collins' song, Clark transmogrified his guitar into a turntable, scratching out a string-breaking solo that dropped jaws.  "Y'alright?" Clark asked with a wry grin. (Read full review)

7. Broken Anchor - 02.15, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
For new tune "Head is a Hole," Austin cut his number of strings in half, trading his guitar for a bass with only three strings that he played capoed and with a pick.  It was the perfect spot for the dour ditty, juxtaposed against "Always," which soared to anthemic heights, propelled by Duffy's blows on the toms with mallets instead of sticks. (Read full review)

6. Alabama Shakes - 02.14, Rocks Off Boat Cruise, New York, NY
Brittany put down her six-string and won everyone back with what I've come to see as their signature live song, "Be Mine."  All the more poignant on Valentine's Day, Brittany erupted in the last chorus, grabbing a few guys in the front row to dance with. (Read full review)

5. Phish - 12.30, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Anastasio revved up the rollicking "Chalk Dust Torture," and an arsenal of cow-patterned balloons exploded from the center of the crowd.  Trey's guitar evolved into a humpback whale, searching for mates across a swirling sea.  Then Mike dropped "the brown noise," clearing the air for a short, gentle section prior to the final uptempo groove. (Read full review)

4. The Roots - 05.04, Beale St. Music Festival, Memphis, TN
The first third of the set focused mainly on Roots classics like "Table of Contents," "The Next Movement," and "Proceed," with the first pause coming 33 minutes in, mid-"Mellow My Man."  Black Thought breathlessly remarked, "I need a cup of coffee, y'all," and they jumped back into the song, not breaking for another 28 minutes until a fake-out ending in "Immigrant Song." (Read full review)

3. They Might Be Giants - 08.10, Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn, NY
When the band eased into "New York City" for their seventh song, I knew this show was different.  The tune is usually reserved for encores, especially when performed in its namesake.  And then the band made one of the most inspired segues I've seen, injecting into its finale the crashing chords of "Ana Ng," effectively reacquainting NYC with its '64 World's Fair. (Read full review)

2. Cody Chesnutt - 06.13, SOB's, New York, NY
He took another beat before crooning the first line, "I used to smoke crack."  "Oh... my... goodness!" clamored an awestruck female in the front, not at the admission to drug use, but at Cody's honey butter voice.  Marvin Gaye may have been murdered before I was born, but his spirit is alive and well inside Mr. Chesnutt. (Read full review)

1. Ken Stringfellow - 02.16, Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
I magically found myself in the front row when he parted the crowd like Moses to play "110 or 220V."  Now mere inches away from Stringfellow, I learned what intimacy was, as he played his guitar directly in front of me.  It was such a strange feeling, almost uncomfortable, yet welcoming at the same time, as the show transformed from a concert in a room full of people to an incredibly personal experience. (Read full review)

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