Even when it seems as though half of the music you hear these days has been processed and auto-tuned to death, the fact is that there are still plenty of artists out there with raw talent, and the best way to recognize this is to catch their live shows. 2010 was a great year for concert-goers of all tastes. Whether you like country-pop, rap, indie rock, and whether you prefer festivals, concert series or solo tours, there was something for everyone this year.
Here’s a few of our favorites…
8.) Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour
Gaga may get too much credit for being “shocking” and “subversive” when she’s often too reminiscent of the attention-starved high school student who wears stupid outfits in the hopes that people will notice her (apparently something called “talent” no longer has any value), but to be fair, she’s been known to put on some entertaining shows, and her 2010 tour received praise for its non-stop absurdity coupled with Lady Gaga’s glam-rock charisma.
And when you get down to it, she can actually sing fairly well, even if it sometimes seems like she’s wasting that voice on the kind of pop that we have definitely heard before.
7.) 101.9 RXP Summer Concert Series
The best radio station to come out of NYC since the legendary Q104.3 has been instrumental in bringing great live music to the city, and this summer it put on a series of shows at the beautifully restored Willamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn that pleased many a rock fan.
6.) All Tomorrow’s Parties curated by Matt Groening
What sets All Tomorrow’s Parties apart from nearly every other music festival is the fact that it remains sponsorship-free; in other words, it’s compromise-free.
The May 2010 dates, held in Butlins Minehead in the UK, were curated by none other than Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons” and personal savior to legions of comedy fans worldwide. Acts included Iggy and the Stooges, She & Him, CocoRosie and Built to Spill, among others.
5.) Taylor Swift’s Fearless Tour
For teenage girls, this tour might as well have been Woodstock. It wasn’t a festival gathered in one place, but during her 2010 dates, Swift was at times joined by the likes Justin Bieber, John Mayer and Katy Perry. If you have any young daughters, don’t let them read that sentence; they may start speaking in tongues.
4.) Spin 25 Concert Series
Spin magazine celebrated 25 years of alt-rock reporting with a five-day long concert series in New York City featuring a pretty impressive lineup: Smashing Pumpkins, The Flaming Lips, The Black Keys, The National, and Spiritualized.
Unfortunately, all but one of the shows were held at the less-than-spectacular Terminal 5 (this writer was at the Pumpkins show, and it was barely possible to see the stage), but with bands like that, a disappointing venue can probably be overlooked. Videos of the event indicate that The Flaming Lips put on a freakishly psychedelic show that must have permanently scarred anyone who indulged in hallucinogens that evening, and The National always deliver a transcendent performance. (This writer saw them perform later in the year.)
3.) Tom Petty with My Morning Jacket
The classic rock superstar played a few dates this year with up-and-comers My Morning Jacket as the opening act, and if you can overlook the fact that My Morning Jacket has reached a point in their career where playing second-string to anyone, even a legend like Petty, is a little bit of an insult, you have to admit that a pairing like this one doesn’t come along very often.
MMJ is known for an intense live show and by all accounts, they delivered the goods. Tom Petty couldn’t quite match the energy of his young companions, but to his credit, the man still knows how to perform convincingly. The combo made for a generation-bridging show that was a treat for anyone who scored a ticket.
2.) Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium
This show was a die-hard rap fan’s wet dream. If the duo of Jay-Z and Eminem wasn’t enough to get the audience excited, the surprise guest appearances brought down the house. Dr. Dre, Kanye West, and Drake all showed up to lend their talents to the proceedings. Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin also joined in on the fun, though we doubt that he was the one to bring down the house.
1.) Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Coachella is Mecca for indie rock enthusiasts. The annual festival has been going strong for nearly a decade now and each year it boasts an incomparable lineup of rising stars, underground acts, and newly minted megastars. 2010 was no different, featuring performances by MGMT, LCD Soundsystem, Muse, Them Crooked Vultures, Gorillaz, as well as the reunions of Pavement and Faith No More. And that list right there is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s easy to become wary of music festivals these days; the ’90s incarnation of Woodstock was less about peace and more about profit, and Lollapalooza has devolved into a shamefully corporate celebration of bland FM radio. Somehow, Coachella has remained true to its goal, and we can all be a little thankful for that.
Did you see any good shows this year that we missed? Tell us about it in the comments!