Musoscribe’s Best of 2010: Live Shows

I was lucky enough to attend nearly two dozen concerts in 2010. Most of the shows were at small, intimate clubs; a couple were in large halls or arenas. I primarily went to local shows in Asheville NC, but occasionally traveled out of town, and for a couple, nearly halfway across the country.

With few exceptions, I enjoyed them all. But five shows from 2010 stood out as especially memorable.

The spring “Frequent Flyer Tour” performance by Henry Rollins at Asheville’s Orange Peel marked my third time seeing Rollins. He’s simply riveting: he stands alone onstage with no props, no notes, no nothing. He talks about whatever comes to mind, rarely pausing more than a second or two. What he talks about is in turns funny, sentimental, harrowing, thought-provoking, but never boring. The slogan for the tour sums up his worldview: “Knowledge without mileage equals bullshit.”

I can’t say enough good things about Mayer Hawthorne. Straight outta nowhere, this guy created a fully-formed stage persona and sonic approach that draws on the best of the past, while somehow remaining modern. I’ve rarely been to a show where people (a) were mostly unfamiliar with the material being performed and (b) absolutely loved it. This was definitely one of those times.

A sentimental favorite is (and always has been) Paul McCartney. During the Wings Over America tour, I was a young teenager. I called the ticket agent and all that remained were seats behind the stage. I figured I’d save the $7 and see Macca “next time.” Well, I did, but it was in the late 80s. I saw him again in 1993, but this 2010 show in Charlotte was especially great because I was able to share it with my son.

Vancouver BC’s Black Mountain are a band worth hearing. I’d seen them before, but attended their fall show at Asheville’s Grey Eagle in connection with a feature I wrote about them for the local altweekly.  They were predictably great, but the big surprise of the night for me was the act that went on before them: The Black Angels. Their brand of drone-psych was amazing, a bit like Velvet Underground with stronger melodies.

I never miss Swedish folkrockpsych (and increasingly jazz-influenced) quartet Dungen when they play Asheville, one of their favorite places. Their music continues to evolve, and leader Gustav Estjes is now — for me – one of a short list of artist whom I’ll follow anywhere musically.

Honorable mention goes to — of all things – the double-bill of Bill Haley’s Original Comets and Paul Revere and the Raiders in Branson MO. Nostalgia? Certainly. But great, authentic, heartfelt rock and roll as well.

I’ll wrap up this Best of 2010 series with a look at my five favorite new CD releases of the year.

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