One Last Year-End List: 2009's Best Concerts

Listen: My job description requires me to see a lot of concerts. More than is probably healthy, to be honest. I'm out at least three nights a week (often more like five or six) seeing local or national shows around town.

Believe me, I'm not complaining. But, when you see that many shows a year, you look at the show-going experience differently. It loses some of its panache. It becomes less about the whole experience and more about the merits of the performance.

So, if we're being honest, chances are that this, my list of top shows from 2009, probably won't jive with yours. We all have our favorite bands, after all, and, when we see those bands live, there's nothing else that can compare with it. My job's to remove myself from that element to the best of my abilities. And when you do that correctly and you're still wowed? Well, then you know you've truly seen something special.

There were plenty of those moment this year. Add in a couple jaunts to Austin for SXSW and ACL, plus a trip to Denver for the Monolith Festival, and, yeah, I saw some great shows. After the jump are the best of the ones seen right here at home, though--and none of them were slouches, either.

10. Neon Indian, Ishi, Fizzy Dino Pop and Yeahdef at the Granada Theater
Review excerpt:
"Aided by a visual show that commandeered the venue's two giant screens at either side of the stage, Neon Indian kept the vibe rockin' along, with the crowd understandably amped for hits 'Should've Taken Acid with You' and the anthemic 'Deadbeat Summer.'" (Nic Hernandez)

9. Motorhead, Reverend Horton Heat at the Palladium Ballroom
Review excerpt:
"[As] the band came up to bow and wave its goodbye (oh, and toss about a million picks and drumsticks into the crowd for eager fans to scuffle over), no one seemed to mind. The show may have been everything the crowd expected it to be, and nothing more--but that was plenty enough."

8. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions at Sons of Hermann Hall
Review excerpt:
"With a voice that seems at once a bit cartoonish and yet totally seductive, [Hope] Sandoval and her band performed a set of songs taken largely from her excellent new release Through the Devil Softly and a few from 2001's Bavarian Fruit Bread. Dressed in an elegant (very) little black dress and boots, Hope played haunting harmonica and xylophone, but mostly sang, her hand on her hip, moving little, lit by the images from the film clips that were projected on the screen behind her." (Doug Davis)

7. Paul McCartney at Cowboys Stadium
Review excerpt:
"[Paul] McCartney is still quite exuberant on stage, and his voice (perhaps the only clear thing in an otherwise muddled mix) still sounds, for the most part, the same as it ever did. And, for the final hour and 35 minutes of the show, McCartney, never truly showing his age, indeed put on a rock show--and a remarkable one, at that."

6. Grizzly Bear at the Granada Theater
Review excerpt:
"[Even] immediately after opening with a thunderous rendering of "Southern Point" from new release Veckatimest, it was clear from the outset that the indie (now mainstream?) darling band has no problem transitioning the fussy precision of the studio to the stage. Through a set list that covered the high points of both the new release as well as 2006's Yellow House, lead vocalists Ed Droste and [Dan] Rossen were spot on, and the complex harmonies sung by all four members were beautifully rendered." (Doug Davis)

5. Good Records' Ninth Birthday Bash/National Record Store Day Celebration
Review excerpt:
"Dove Hunter and Dem Southernfolkz especially killed. The former wowed a hooting and hollering crowd with an especially heavy blend of its roots rock and the latter surprised a largely unfamiliar crowd with its soulful brand of hip-hop."

4. My Bloody Valentine at the Palladium Ballroom
Review excerpt:
"Even without the legendary volume the band would reach, the song is a phenomenal jolt of energy. But as they hit that chord that began the 'holocaust section,' you could almost see the air scramble. The volume became oppressive, yet the temptation to remove the earplugs proved too much. Unhampered by foam plugs, the noise was like looking into the sun--if the sun shrieked and hissed like a legion of ferocious demons directly into your head as your body quivered, overloaded and disoriented from the sonic pummeling and throbbing strobes." (Jesse Hughey)

3. Old 97's, Telegraph Canyon at Bass Hall
Review excerpt:

In the cavernous 2,000-capacity room, which normally plays home to operas and symphonies, Telegraph Canyon enraptured the slow-arriving audience with its carefully arranged, delicately preformed baroque rock; Chris Johnson's voice trembled throughout the 11-year-old performance hall and the band's music slowly built to crescendos that crept up to the rafters and wormed their way into the compelled crowd's guts. It was an impressive debut for the band in a room such as this--something culled as much from the jaw-dropping performance as from the crowd's enthusiastic applause at the end of each song."

2. St. Vincent at the Granada Theater
Review excerpt:
"[As Annie] Clark bounced through a 13-song set of tracks from her debut, Marry Me, and, more prominently, from her May-released sophomore album, Actor, the crowd showed that it too had two sides to share: the loud side that made its appreciation of the performance well-known through its cheers; and the shell-shocked one that was so stunned, not a single person even dared whisper over the hushed sounds of Clark and her backing four-piece band's intricate instrumentation."

1. Leonard Cohen at the Nokia Theatre
Review excerpt:
"For whatever reason, [Leonard] Cohen--the poet, the performer, the golden-voiced crooner--took to the stage at Grand Prairie as if he had something to prove to the fans who'd willingly paid the lofty admission prices to see his show. It was as if he wanted to go far beyond ensuring that the audience got its money's worth from the performance. It was as if he wanted to make sure that, by the time the crowd would leave, there would be no doubt in its mind that Cohen deserves a place in the pantheon alongside the greatest songwriters of all time."

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman

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