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Monday, December 31, 2007

Ranking every band I saw live in 2007, from 1-101

This year I saw more than 100 national acts play live, thanks largely to Lollapalooza and the Warped Tour, which provided 57 of them. The following is a ranking of every band I saw, from 1-101.

1. Daft Punk, Lollapalooza, August 3
Much of the thrill of seeing these guys is based on the novelty factor, knowing that they rarely perform live. Their show was quite the spectacle, with the two of them in their trademark robot outfits standing inside a giant pyramid, alongside a crazy light and video show. The energy coming from 30,000 people when the first notes of “One More Time” began was something to behold.

2. My Chemical Romance, Wolstein Center, February 26
They came out in their black & white Sgt. Pepper uniforms and performed the epic Black Parade album from start to finish. It was a brash display of rock 'n roll arrogance. Singer Gerard Way’s showmanship recalled Freddie Mercury. The title track was the high point - its Bohemian Rhapsody-like scope was magnified live, and just as the final triumphant chorus and soaring guitars kicked in, they shot off cannons of confetti. It was an unforgettable arena rock moment that few bands in the world are capable of pulling off.

3. The Hold Steady, Lollapalooza, August 4
I never thought a no-frills rock band could be this good. Craig Finn and his bandmates wowed me with their enthusiasm and authenticity. I missed “Stuck Between Stations” but I didn’t care, because “You Can Make Him Like You,” “Massive Nights,” and the rest more than made up for it. Finn’s sing-speak vocals, Franz Nicolay’s lively keys, and a surprisingly young crowd combined to make this one of Lollapalooza’s most fun shows.

4. Rodrigo y Gabriela, Lollapalooza, August 5
Normally the description “Mexican instrumental guitar duo” wouldn’t excite me, but these two were shockingly good. Gabriela’s fingers moved so fast I swore there was a drummer on stage, until I finally realized it was just her slapping the guitar between notes. “Diablo Rojo” was most impressive, but they also performed amazing covers like Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

5. !!!, Lollapalooza, August 5
Sometimes a frontman is so good that he makes the show all by himself, and that was the case with !!!’s Nic Offer, whose horrific, so-uncool-it-was-cool dancing got everyone moving. His singing was pretty close to awful, but who goes to a !!! show to hear epic vocal performances? LCD Soundsystem should’ve been taking notes.

6. TV On the Radio, Lollapalooza, August 5
Sometimes a rock band comes out and plays a show so intense that when they leave, your ears are still buzzing and you feel as if you’ve just witnessed a fire, and the ground is still smoldering. That was the feeling after these guys tore through “Wolf Like Me” and “I Was a Lover” at Lolla.

7. Ghostland Observatory, The Music Box at the Henry Fonda Theater, November 30

The second time I saw them in ’07 was even better than the first. Despite the risky decision to open with their two best songs, “Vibrate” and “Sad Sad City,” the energy never dipped during their set. “Midnight Voyage” was a great 8-minute jam with a guitar riff that wouldn’t end, and the spacey “Silver City” was a great encore.

8. Dave Matthews Band, Post-Gazette Pavilion, August 8

I’ve seen DMB so many times that they have to do something special to impress me anymore, and they did on this night, playing classics like “Crush” and “Grey Street” and hitting the high notes that he could previously only sing in falsetto. “Louisiana Bayou” was funky as hell, and they also busted out the rarely-heard “Sweet Up and Down,” a track from the long-lost Lillywhite Sessions.

9. Girl Talk, Mr. Small’s Theatre, May 11

Witnessing his live mash-ups was a beautiful thing. He played to the crowd, reworking Night Ripper’s opening track, “Once Again”, to include part of local rapper Wiz Khalifa’s “Pittsburgh Sound.” The crowd poured onto the stage, and for one night Pittsburgh actually became a city that wasn’t afraid to dance.

10. Polyphonic Spree, Lollapalooza, August 3
The first memorable moment of the festival came when this 27-piece choral outfit changed from their military uniforms into their trademark white robes and played a cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium.” They also tore up “When a Fool Becomes King.” Memo to self: Don’t skip the first half of this band’s performance ever again.

11. Pearl Jam, Lollapalooza, August 5
They played a hits-heavy set that included “Daughter,” “Worldwide Suicide,” a raucous “Alive,” and a performance of “Even Flow” that included fireworks and lengthy guitar solos. Though shorter than expected, their show lived up to expectations and was worthy of being the festival headliner.

12. World/Inferno Friendship Society, Mr. Small’s Theatre, September 20
How to describe this band? They blended punk/soul/cabaret and it was beautiful to witness them win over a hardcore punk crowd, thanks largely to the showmanship of frontman Jack Terricloth. Seeing teenagers with red mohawks dancing around to this music made me happy.

13. Ghostland Observatory, Lollapalooza, August 3
I knew little about this duo, but they blew me away with their White Stripes-meets-Daft Punk blend of hard rock and electronica, combined with a pigtailed singer who snake danced around the stage like Gwen Stefani and a cape-wearing drummer/keyboardist. I was instantly converted to a fan in less than 60 minutes.

14. Mickey Avalon, Lollapalooza, August 3
He probably doesn’t deserve to be this high, but this was one of my personal favorite shows of the year. There’s something about Mickey’s trashy white-boy rap that is irresistible. A small but dedicated audience went nuts as he played most of his debut album, finishing with “My Dick,” featuring Dirt Nasty, aka Simon Rex.

15. Patti Smith, Lollapalooza, August 4
Recovered from a slow start with spirited renditions of her hits “Because the Night” and “Gloria,” and a brilliant re-working of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which she turned into a passionate ballad about the evils of war. At the end of her set it started raining heavily, an appropriate capper for a majestic performance.

16. Luminescent Orchestrii, Theatre of the Living Arts, December 28
Eastern-European gypy-klezmer-tango-punk band showed off terrific musicianship. They damn near pulled-off their goal of having four musicians create the sound of an entire orchestra on songs like “Taraf Hijacked,” and got everyone laughing and dancing with the humorous food homage “Nasty Tasty.”

17. The Ike Reilly Assassination, Point State Park, June 12
I didn’t intend to stay for the whole show, but they were so good I couldn’t leave until it was over. Ike is one of rock’s great modern wordsmiths, and I especially enjoyed the songs he played from 2001’s Salesmen and Racists, like “Hip Hop Thighs #17,” “Cash is King,” and “Duty Free.”

18. Dresden Dolls, Theatre of the Living Arts, December 28
Amanda’s voice was ragged (what else is new?), but the band’s set was full of their best material – “Bad Habit,” “Gravity,” “Half Jack,” “Delilah,” and “Girl Anachronism.” Left-field covers of “Fight for Your Right (To Party)” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” made the show particularly memorable.

19. Fiery Furnaces, Mr. Small’s Theatre, November 2
They didn’t let a small, non-enthusiastic crowd deter them, and eventually found their stride with “Clear Signal From Cairo” and “The Philadelphia Grand Jury.” I was digging the odd song structures, and the addition of a guitarist and drummer for the live show made the sound much more full than on the record.

20. Fall Out Boy, Post-Gazette Pavilion, May 23
They’re playing arenas for a reason. Their live chops are questionable (even they admit as much), but the songs on Infinity on High are good enough that they still rock even if not delivered at their best. Rolling Stone just named their record as one of the best of 2007, so there’s finally some critical acclaim to back up my liking of this group.

21. Nicole Atkins, Diesel, November 19
Terrific voice; if she doesn’t become a superstar, I’ll be surprised
22. The National, Rex Theater, June 19
Mr. November is one of my favorite rock songs of recent years
23. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lollapalooza, August 4
A band that I never really liked finally won me over
24. The Rapture, Rex Theater, February 3
People don’t dance no more? They did tonight
25. Iggy Pop & the Stooges, Lollapalooza, August 5
I missed the part where he invited the crowd onstage
26. Fall Out Boy, Agora Theater, January 11
Small club show to road-test new material
27. White Rabbits, Lollapalooza, August 5
Peppy indie rock with multiple pianists and drummers
28. Marilyn Manson, Tower City Ampitheater, July 31
I waited years to do the fist-raise during Antichrist Superstar
29. Tokyo Police Club, Lollapalooza, August 4
Rough around the edges, but they’re young
30. Polyphonic Spree, Rex Theater, November 15
Didn’t play their best songs this time
31. High Class Elite, Lollapalooza, August 4
Trashy glam-rock took me totally by surprise

32. Cobra Starship, Post-Gazette Pavilion, May 23
A sassy singer and a girl who plays keytar, that’s all we need
33. Rise Against, Wolstein Center, February 26
Anarchist attitude and solid material won over crowd
34. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Lollapalooza, August 3
Nice rock songs, like Mellancamp if he was cool
35. HUMANWINE, Club Café, March 28
Creators of a new genre – gypsy pirate rock
36. White Rabbits, Club Café, September 7
"Kid On My Shoulders" is incredible live
37. Anti-Flag, Mr. Small’s Theatre, April 22
Finally got to see the Pittsburgh punk rockers
38. The Ike Reilly Assassination, Allegheny Landing, June 23
Another quality show from these guys
39. Paramore, Warped Tour, August 8
The music’s almost as interesting as the colors in her hair

40. +44, Post-Gazette Pavilion, May 23
Played only 1 Blink-182 song, but still rocked
41. Mike Doughty, Outside WYEP Studios, September 8
Mike never fails to deliver
42. Paolo Nutini, Lollapalooza, August 5
Thick accent sometimes distracted from songs
43. The Academy Is…, Post-Gazette Pavilion, May 23
William Beckett is too skinny to live
44. Amy Winehouse, Lollapalooza, August 5
Always seems bored onstage, but you can’t knock the songs
45. Meow Meow, Theatre of the Living Arts, December 28
Freaky cabaret singer with an entertaining show
46. Interpol, Lollapalooza, August 4
Obligatory comparison to Joy Division appears here
47. Fountains of Wayne, Diesel, June 7
Nerd rock wasn’t half bad
48. Matt Roan, Lollapalooza, August 3
DJ had a cool Girl Talk kinda thing going on
49. Muse, Lollapalooza, August 4
Too Radiohead-ish for my taste
50. Pete Yorn, Lollapalooza, August 4
He covered Young Folks by Peter Bjorn & John

51. Against Me!, Lollapalooza, August 3
A killer version of White People for Peace
52. Black Moth Super Rainbow, June 4
They ended their set way too soon
53. New Found Glory, Agora Theater, January 11
Odd, unnecessary cover of Sixpence’s Kiss Me
54. The Switches, Lollapalooza, August 3
The very first band at Lolla this year. Nice way to start
55. The Roots, Lollapalooza, August 4
?uestlove is still my boy
56. The Rapture, Lollapalooza, August 3
They are too cool for you
57. Silversun Pickups, Lollapalooza, August 3
Lazy Eye is an amazing song
58. New Found Glory, Warped Tour, August 8
Playing to the crowd makes the vocals suffer
59. The Pipettes, Diesel, November 19
Better towards the end, after they stopped being sour
60. Coheed & Cambria, Warped Tour, August 8
I love his Rush-esque voice

61. Illinois, Lollapalooza, August 3
I enjoy the banjo as a lead instrument
62. Electric Six, Lollapalooza, August 3
I wish I could’ve caught more of their set
63. Via Audio, Club Café, September 7
They had a cool vibe going on
64. moe., Allegheny Landing, June 23
Some nifty jamming; where were the pot brownies?
65. Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Lollapalooza, August 3
Too many songs about saving the world
66. LCD Soundsystem, Lollapalooza, August 3
I guess I missed the good part of their set
67. Hawthorne Heights, Warped Tour, August 8
Whiniest band ever… so they’re right up my alley
68. Subhumans, Mr. Small’s Theatre, September 20
I got no sense from their performance that they were real punk legends
69. My Morning Jacket, Lollapalooza, August 5
I can’t believe I skipped Modest Mouse for this
70. Motion City Soundtrack, Lollapalooza, August 4
I like this band, too bad I couldn’t stay longer
71. Silverchair, Lollapalooza, August 4
Aside from “Freak,” inexplicably played almost none of their old hits
72. Snow Patrol, Lollapalooza, August 4
“Set the Fire to the Third Bar” is a great pop duet
73. Permanent Me, Agora Theater, January 11
Fall Out Boy-lite
74. Sinead O’Connor, Allegheny Landing, June 23
She’s this quiet singer/songwriter now

75. M.I.A, Lollapalooza, August 3
Boring, just her dancing with two girls & singing to a backing track
76. Rooney, Rex Theater, November 15
“Are You Afraid” was a sweet 80s-sounding synth number
77. The Cribs, Lollapalooza, August 5
I was seriously unimpressed
78. Bad Religion, Warped Tour, August 8
I respect their history but I thought they were just ok
79. Roky Erickson & the Explosives, Lollapalooza, August 4
When CSS cancelled I was stuck with this
80. Alexisonfire, Mr. Small’s Theatre, April 22
I still don’t know if it’s “alex is on fire” or “alexis on fire”
81. Jack’s Mannequin, Lollapalooza, August 3
Imagine The Fray, if the singer had an emo voice

82. Tapes ‘n Tapes, Lollapalooza, August 4
Um, the singer wore a cool shirt?
83. The Starting Line, Warped Tour, August 8
More catchy than the typical Warped fare
84. Los Lonely Boys, Point State Park, June 10
I thought this would be a lot better
85. Killswitch Engage, Warped Tour, August 8
I don’t remember much except loud noise
86. Tiger Army, Warped Tour, August 8
See: Killswitch Engage
87. Peter Bjorn & John, Lollapalooza, August 5
No substance at all beyond Young Folks
88. Blonde Redhead, Lollapalooza, August 3
I couldn’t figure out why this band had any buzz
89. Smoosh, Lollapalooza, August 5
Their 8-year-old sis now plays bass!
90. Chin Up Chin Up, Lollapalooza, August 3
The couple standing next to me really liked them
91. Slayer, Tower City Ampitheater, July 31
Proof that I’m really not into heavy metal

92. 1900’s, Lollapalooza, August 5
A band that was stylish, but I don’t remember the music
93. Circa Survive, Warped Tour, August 8
“Progressive emo,” if there can be such a thing
94. Set Your Goals, Mr. Small’s Theatre, April 22
Their MySpace page rocks; it’s better than their music
95. Poison the Well, Warped Tour, August 8
Another faceless Warped act
96. The Fratellis, Lollapalooza, August 3
Didn’t they know this was an important show?
97. The Early November, Agora Theater, January 11
98. Pit Er Pat, Mr. Small’s Theatre, November 2
Instrumental openers for Fiery Furnaces even bored themselves, I think
99. Dear & the Headlights, Lollapalooza, August 4
Didn’t do much for me
100. Caustic Christ, Mr. Small’s Theatre, September 20
At least they have a clever name
101. Paul Wall, Post-Gazette Pavilion, May 23
Ok, I confess - I went to the concession stand while he played, so I didn’t hear any of his set. So, it’s possible I missed something great. But come on… it’s friggin’ Paul Wall!


BeckEye said...

I do not know Paul Wall. I do not know him, not at all.

Um, did you place Pearl Jam just out of the top 10 to bug me? 'Cause it's bugging me. ;)

Scott said...

Ah, so you haven't heard that Paul Wall/Pearl Jam duet?

BeckEye said...

Nope. Are you being sarcastic?

See, I love sarcasm and I'm just as guilty of it as anyone, but it doesn't translate to the Internet. (Plus, Eddie seems to be singing with everyone but me these days, so you never can tell.) I thought you might have been joking with your Bruce Springsteen/Arcade Fire comment over on my blog, but then I thought you might be serious. Either way, it sent me into quite a tizzy. I'm baffled. I left you a lengthy response. Come over and explain yourself, young man!! :o

Beth said...

Damn, you saw some great acts. Happily jealous.

Scott said...

Thanks Beth... I know you saw a bunch of concerts I was jealous of too!

DJRainDog said...

I have not heard of probably half the people on this list...And judging by your enthusiasm level for a number of them, I won't be seeking them out, either. ;-) You wrote, "I couldn’t figure out why this band had any buzz." I can't figure out why MOST bands with "buzz" have it. *sigh*

fluffyfluffyhead157 said...

What about PHISH??? Have you not been to a Phish show?