Just like Festivus, I’ll start the Top Ten first with an airing of grievances. These are three shows I attended but with which I was disappointed. Much in the same way you’re disappointed with this blog….
3. Bob Mould – Old Town School (3/29) – I debated whether I wanted to go to this show. I liked Husker Du and was somewhat familiar with Sugar and his solo stuff, but not sure if I was big enough fan to see a solo acoustic show. Turns out I’m not. He’s evolved in the last 20 years and I have not. Makes no sense at all.
2. Buddy Guy – Legend’s (1/18) – A legend. And every January he plays a series of shows at his bar in the South Loop. I got a pair of coveted weekend tickets, but unless you arrive hours early you won’t get a seat. No biggie except that standing room is delegated to corrals designated by stripes painted on the floor and enforced by bar security. Again, I might have been cool with that had he put on a real blues show instead of the fluff he presented that night. If you want to be able to say you saw him live, go for it. Otherwise save your money for a hooker or something equally delightful.
1. Juliette Lewis, American Bang, The Wanton Looks – Bottom Lounge (10/2) – This one is well-documented. She gave us 2-1/2 good records of rockin’ material before she went back to being an actress pretending to be a rock star. Still a high energy show and we got to see American Bang up close so maybe it’s unfair to drop this one so low, but I wanted this one to be a Dairy Queen Brownie Earthquake and all I got was some figgy pudding.
Next up – honorable mentions. I won’t blow my reward money hiring them to play my birthday party, but they were definitely good shows.
The Von Ehrics – Quenchers (12/10) – These boys pack up the van and come around about twice a year and always deliver a good time. Kind of like a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls – cheap, delicious, consistent and predictable. So I was a little concerned when they parted ways with their bass player. But on their last stop in town, the sound didn’t lose much and it actually sounded fresh with some new songs in the set list and some others reworked. I’ll miss Jeffrey’s stage presence but the rest of the band seems to have a renewed energy and have stepped up their game.
Keb Mo – Pottawatomie Bingo Casino (11/14) – I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Keb many times and he never disappoints – probably the most likable artist on the list. But it’s still basically a show for suburban housewives who want to feel edgy by seeing someone a little more hip than Harry Connick, Jr.
Jorma Kaukonen, Ruthie Foster, Robben Ford – College of DuPage (2/21) – Also reviewed earlier this year. Kind of a laid back show, but the talent and vibe was top notch. I primarily went for Ruthie, but also got to brush up on my music history and learn why Jorma was the headliner.
The Smithereens - some lame street fest last summer - I rediscovered that these guys were still touring a few years ago and have caught them a couple times since. They're clearly still loving what they're doing and still doing it well. Pat looks a little different, but the music is better than ever. Be on the lookout if they ever come to your town.
Pretenders, American Bang – The Riviera (2/15) – Definitely a top ten show, but dropped a bit because of the venue and the fact that I got to see them both again later in the year at better venues.
With that, I present you with Sid F’er’s Best Concerts of 2009:
10. Ruthie Foster – Old Town School (8/22) – A powerful voice, some decent chops on the guitar, a great mix of gospel and blues, and a personality that makes me wish she would just come over to my house, hang out and play some records. That’s not too creepy, is it?
9. Monte Montgomery – Fitzgerald’s (10/11) – Monte comes ‘round a couple times a year and you should make a point to see and support him. The dude is good enough that he could just go up there and shred for an hour and would still have a following. But in addition to some surprising and not-so-surprising covers, he can write some good old-fashioned rock and roll songs and has put together a band that can pull off some crafty arrangements that will help you get your groove back faster than Stella did. And he’s got a sense of humor that makes me wish I were a woman so that I could have a crush on him for it. That’s not too creepy, is it?
8. Los Lobos, The Duhks – Symphony Hall (11/1) – I’ve heard these guys put on a great show and finally got to see them this year. It wasn’t as high energy as I had expected, but just damn fine musicians with some great chemistry. And as much as I wanted to hate the La Bamba encore, I La Bamba-ed with the rest of the crowd and had pretty damn good time. Add in an opening band made up of a bunch of Franco-Manitobans and how can you go wrong? You can’t.
7. honeyhoney – Folk & Roots Festival, Welles Park (7/12) – This is a pretty cool fest if you can manage to dodge the monster truck strollers that obnoxious parents roll in there to pretend they’re exposing their disinterested kids to culture and getting in the way of obnoxious folks like me who just go to look at cute girls who can sing and play fiddle and banjo. honeyhoney happened to have such a person, who was also cuter and more talented than I had expected. As Lou Reed said so eloquently, “I love you, Suzanne.”
6. The Pixies – Aragon (10/20) – I had forgotten how good these guys were. At first I balked over the $45 ticket price, but the tour reignited my interest in their music. The more I listened the more $45 seemed like a bargain. Especially since by the time I decided I wanted to go I had to go through the detritus that is Craigslist to get a ticket for $55. They sounded great, but don’t stray much from the records in concert. And they had possibly one of the worst opening bands I’ve ever seen – No Age. Otherwise they might have come in higher.
5. U2 – Soldier Field (9/12) – I can’t even recall who played the last stadium show I attended but I think it was on a sweaty, summer night at Texas Stadium, and I vowed never to go to another stadium show again. But I felt it was my husbandly duty to get some tickets to my wife’s favorite band. However… it was a great day and I got to ride my bike down the lakefront path to the show. There weren’t any douchebags in my immediate seating area. I actually kind of like their latest record. And it was almost worth the price of the ticket alone to see the 360 stage, video display and the coordination and logistics necessary to pull off a production of that scale seemingly flawlessly. They’re coming back around – check it out.
4. Dave Alvin and The Guilty Women – Old Town School (3/21) – So I was familiar with the Blasters and knew of Dave Alvin but quite wasn’t sure what to expect going in. This one turned out the opposite of the Bob Mould show. Dave was personable, laid down some groovin’ tunes, and sounded great despite still getting used to his new bandmates, who just happened to be some badass women that are good enough to hang with Dave.
3. Pretenders, Cat Power, Juliette Lewis – The Vic (8/18) – I have a weakness for female musicians so this lineup blew me away as soon as it was announced. I was still a Juliette fan, and her 30-minute opening set was just enough to give me a fix without being so over the top to drive me away like she did six weeks later. Cat Power won me over with her set. I had always been on the fence, but the way she stalked the stage drew me in like an office staff to free donuts in the break room. And Chrissie. THE coolest woman in rock and roll, even at 58 years old. She’s so good I even considered joining those freaks at PETA just to impress her. Besides having just one other original Pretender, she’s collected some guys that know their place and capture the energy of any lineup past.
2. The Dead Weather, Screaming Females – The Vic (7/29) – I like The White Stripes. I like The Kills. And Jack and Allison did not let me down. The most powerful show of the year. Quality musicians, commanding stage presence, and great lights and sound at a good venue. They rocked so many faces off that night that they had to stop the show half way so that security could sweep them up like hats after a hat trick. It also didn’t hurt that they found Screaming Females to open the show with some loud, dirty rock and roll featuring tiny but powerful Marissa tearing it up on guitar.
1. The Jesus Lizard – Metro (11/27) - Despite spending my entire life in Chicago and Texas, I never managed to see these guys. So I was pretty excited when they announced the reunion tour, but wasn’t sure if they could still perform at the same level as 20 or even 10 years ago. I’ll just leave you with the following exhibits: a) it was a packed house and I somehow ended up a good 20 feet from where I started the show. b) lead singer David Yow passed overhead several times and eventually left in an ambulance. c) it was the highest energy and most fun I’ve had at a show in recent memory.
What were your best shows of the year?
Rock on, and here’s to some good shows in 2010.