21st Century Breakdown: Greg M. Schwartz’s Top 10 Concerts of the 2000s

Yesterday I listed my ten favorite albums of the decade. (To view that list, click here.) As promised, in conjunction with our End of Decade series, here are my top ten concerts of the decade, again in chronological order.

Galactic, 6/10/00 @ The Warfield, San Francisco, CA
The New Orleans funk masters made the Bay Area their second home this decade, with one stellar show after another. This was the night they unofficially evolved from a good funk group to an amazing big league jam band. The evening concluded the band’s spring tour and they paid extra to extend the show past the normal venue closing time. This enabled a memorable three-set affair whose final set didn’t start until after 2 AM. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band joined the band for that entire third set of acid jazz ecstasy. There’s nothing quite like seeing a band on a night when they know from the start that they’re going to drop “the bomb,” which Galactic clearly did since the event poster was a picture of an old school-style sphere bomb with fuse.

The String Cheese Incident, 8/7/01 @ Mt. Shasta Ski Park – Mt. Shasta, CA
The jam rock stalwarts often work with Peak Experience Productions to put on shows that transcend the typical concert experience. This time they went to an actual peak for two shows – Mt. Shasta is known as one of the Earth’s true natural wonders and is a genuine Earth power spot. (??? – Ed.) The mountain loomed behind the crowd of about 3,000 as the band delivered a monumental performance on this second night, topping a brilliant first night and matching the majesty of the wondrous setting. The huge version of the band’s classic “Rivertrance” is arguably the best ever performed. Thematic selections like “Windy Mountain” and “High on a Mountain Top” only enhanced the vibe further, and the “Midnight Moonlight” encore was perfect. It’s only a shame there aren’t more shows at this magical location. Stream or download free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/sci2001-08-07.shnf

The Other Ones, 8/04/02 @ Alpine Valley Ampitheater – Troy, WI
The four surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunited for the first time since 1998 with a pair of shows before 40,000+ at Alpine Valley in a weekend dubbed “Terrapin Station – a Grateful Dead Family Reunion.” Each of the members’ own bands delivered a set during the weekend, followed by a pair of two-set shows from the Other Ones. The first night was great fun, if a bit uneven. The second night was pure bliss, with a set list featuring only classic tunes and great chemistry from the band. Jimmy Herring ripped on lead guitar and the band gelled for what turned out to be a great 2002 tour, as bassist Phil Lesh was able to influence his mates to do things his way. This meant adventurous playing, bringing back the old songs that hadn’t been played in years and pushing the envelope like the band did back in the day. Stream or download free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/too2002-08-04.schoeps-mk4.unknown.11116.shnf

Phil Lesh & Friends, 10/30/05 @ The Joint, Las Vegas, NV
Part of the Vegoose at Night Concert Series (late night shows at venues on the Vegas Strip following daytime festival performances at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl), the Grateful Dead bassist and his band threw down a huge three-set performance that started around midnight and lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The bass master has been at the height of his powers in his 60s, aging like a fine wine. This show followed a superb stadium set the day before where Warren Haynes sat in. “Don’t these guys ever fucking quit?” a bartender asked me during the third set that featured a monster “Unbroken Chain” and a bust-out cover of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” with Joan Osborne on vocals. Osborne, who toured with the Dead in 2003, was a last-minute replacement for Ryan Adams, and played the role of alchemist – everything she touched turned to gold, including Adams songs like “Hardest Part” and “Let It Ride.” Stream or download for free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/paf2005-10-30.dpa4023.31513.flac16

Pearl Jam, 5/20/06 @ Quicken Loans Arena– Cleveland, OH
I’d always seen Pearl Jam in California, but being back home in Ohio going to grad school gave me the chance to catch them in my hometown for the first time, and did they ever deliver. The new tunes kicked ass. They threw down great rarities like “Faithful,” “Thumbing My Way” and “Spin the Black Circle.” They included plenty of fan-fave classics too. The crowd was absolutely amped and grew more so when Eddie Vedder mentioned that the band’s next stop would be in Detroit (the Cavaliers had just dropped a heartbreaking playoff game six to the Pistons at the Q the previous night and were headed north for an ill-fated game seven the next day.) The crowd started chanting “Pistons suck,” and got Vedder to say it once too. Before “Unemployable,” Vedder had commented on the dour economy in Ohio and invited the crowd to move to Seattle, where they would “be not only unemployed but also wet… but you’ll be out drinking with us.” Songs like “Alive”, “Why Go” and “Fuckin Up” all raged with peak intensity. It was Pearl Jam at their best.

The Black Crowes, 8/1/06 @ Lifestyles Community Pavilion, Columbus, OH
With no opening band on this particular night, it was an “evening with” show where the band took the opportunity to open with a stellar acoustic set and follow it with a superb electric set. Thank goodness I passed on the Cleveland show at the lame Tower City Ampitheater with two opening bands to see this one instead. The word is getting out that this gem of a venue is one of the Midwest’s best. With great sound and not a bad view in the place, it’s become a venue not to miss when one of your favorite bands is in the house. The second set opened with an electrifying cover of Eric Clapton’s “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” featured 18 minutes of rock grandeur with “Thorn in My Pride” and concluded with a “Sugaree” encore in tribute to Jerry Garcia’s birthday. Buy it here:

http://www.liveblackcrowes.com/live-music/0,2295/The-Black-Crowes-mp3-flac-download-8-1-2006-LC-Pavilion-Columbus-OH.html

Smashing Pumpkins, 7/30/07 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
The Pumpkins re-opened the Fillmore in 1994, so seeing the band reunite to deliver a 12-show residency at what some have dubbed “the greatest venue in the known universe” was an unexpected and special treat. In egalitarian fashion, tickets for the shows were just $25. Two of the four original members had been replaced, but with Billy Corgan on guitar and Jimmy Chamberlin on drums, this epic three hour-plus show featuring a mix of classics and stellar new material was grunge bliss at its finest. New songs like “Doomsday Clock,” “United States” and “That’s the Way (My Love Is)” rocked with a live intensity that was at an entirely higher level above the studio versions. Corgan stated that this was a new band, but deep rocking on “Drown,” “Hummer” and “Cherub Rock” turned back the clock in the best way. Monster jams on “Heavy Metal Machine” and the 36-minute “Gossamer” that ended the show threatened to blow the roof off. Check out the If All Goes Wrong DVD for some flavor from this residency. Stream or download the show free here:

http://www.archive.org/details/tsp2007-07-30.st11.flac16

Sound Tribe Sector 9, 3/1/09 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
STS9 were the closest thing to a house band for the venerable Fillmore in the first half of the decade, before outgrowing the venue and moving on to larger ones. But they returned this year for a four-night run that concluded with a scintillating throwback performance for the ages. The positive energy inside the building on this Sunday night was something special, yet another testament to the Fillmore’s timeless vibe. The ever-evolving band left their high-tech toys on the shelf for a night and featured their older material in a show that won such raves from the fan base that the band changed their policy on releasing the soundboards. The group had barred the normally-allowed audience taping for the run, ostensibly to use the shows for a new live album or DVD. But after this show, a fever pitch outcry from the fans saw the band reverse course within a week and make the soundboard recordings immediately available. The “Baraka” opener set the tone, “Tap In & We’ll Meet in Our Dreams” was groovy psychedelic bliss, while the “Hubble” encore was simply transcendent. Stream it for free or purchase downloads here:

http://sts9.com/?p=578

Jefferson Starship, 7/3/09 @ Pearson Auditorium, The Roswell UFO Festival, Roswell, NM
With amazing new vocalist Cathy Richardson in tow since 2008, Jefferson Airplane founder Paul Kantner has had this modern version of the band riding a new wave of artistic power. The band has sadly flown under the mainstream radar and had plans to capture this unique performance on DVD for mass consumption. But like a mind-blowing UFO sighting that doesn’t show up on video, the HD video feed crashed and left this spectacular show as just a memory. Kantner brought in former vocalist Darby Gould along with a slew of other special guests like bassist Pete Sears, guitarist Barry Sless and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten for a special performance that featured a mostly acoustic first set and a sci-fi themed, mostly electric second set. The four-part harmonies between Richardson, Gould, Kantner and David Freiberg on 1970’s “Have You Seen the Saucers” were truly out of this world, as were performances of Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” the Dead’s “Dark Star” and Airplane classics like “Crown of Creation,” “Wooden Ships,” “Somebody to Love” and an electrifying “Volunteers” encore.

Phish, 10/31/09 @ Festival 8, Indio, CA
For their first Halloween show since 1998, the band combined two of their greatest traditions for the first time to create an unprecedented event – a Halloween performanc featuring an instant classic musical costume set, joined with one of their legendary multi-day festival events. The show of the year went down at the Coachella Festival site in Southern California, a gorgeous setting for Halloween fun, especially with the site tricked out with all kinds of psychedelic ambience. The three-set Halloween show featured a complete performance of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, with the band joined by Sharon Jones and a horn section for a dazzling performance that took the crowd to “cloud 8” (it was the band’s eighth festival event.) “Torn and Frayed” was jammed to heights the Stones never dreamed, “All Down the Line” conjured a joyous dance party into gear and “Shine a Light” took on a truly transcendent flavor I’d never gleamed from the album. Buy it here:

http://livephish.com/live-music/0,504/Phish-mp3-flac-download-10-31-2009-Festival-8-Indio-CA.html

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer Greg Schwartz’s picks

2008 has been a fantastic year for rock & roll to this reporter’s view. Last year, I felt like I was struggling to come up with enough albums just to fill a top 10. It’s been a far different story this year as sifting the top 10 from the many worthy honorable mentions has been a tough process that has required rigorous listening and re-appraisal. When new albums by longtime personal faves like the Black Crowes and King’s X can’t quite crack my top 10, I can only pay homage to the music gods for such a plentiful bounty.

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Jefferson Starship: Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty
One of the greatest rock heroes of the ‘60s comes back with superb new relevancy as Paul Kantner hits the jackpot again with Cathy Richardson, the band’s dynamic new vocalist. The soaring harmonies between Richardson, Kantner and David Freiberg are simply majestic, adding a revelatory new flavor to songs that are mostly covers of ‘60s tunes that inspired the Airplane back in the day. But the new “On the Threshold of Fire” might be the song of the year – no other gave me chills like it did.

2. Susan Tedeschi: Back to the River
The blues diva delivers her best album yet, packed with soulful rockers, guest stars and oh so compelling vocals that assure the blues are in good hands with the current generation. “People” is one of the top tracks of the year and should have been Obama’s victory song in Grant Park. It’s among several tracks that offer a taste of the musical magic that occurs when Tedeschi and hubby Derek Trucks (slide guitar) join forces. Look for a Soul Stew Revival album featuring that combo to top this list in 2009 or 2010.

3. Michael Franti & Spearhead: All Rebel Rockers
Franti and his rock/reggae/hip-hop/funk/soul crew help keep the Bay Area at the cutting edge of the music revolution with their best album since 2001’s album of the year, Stay Human. There’s no one else mixing it all up like Franti, and no one else lyricizes the zeitgeist of the times like he does. Guest vocalist Cherine Anderson sounds like a star in waiting.

4. Guns n’ Roses: Chinese Democracy
It’s overproduced, should probably be labeled an Axl Rose solo joint, and should have been released at least six years ago. But all that aside, Rose has finally delivered the unique type of kick ass rock n’ roll that only he can (although the lyrics aren’t nearly as accessible as they used to be.) He’ll probably never live down the backlash over the album’s tardiness, but tunes like “Better,” “There was a Time,” “Catcher in the Rye” and “I.R.S.” are epic rockers that conjure that classic Gn’R sound. Now if only Axl would pick up the phone, apologize to Slash & Duff for being so difficult, and get the band back together. They’d sell out every arena in America.

5. Blue Turtle Seduction: 13 Floors
I’d never heard of these Lake Tahoe jam rockers until they saved last New Year’s Eve in San Francisco with their stellar “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the 12 Galaxies” show to usher in 2008 in festive style. Then they issued this superb album packed with tight playing and a bunch of tunes that sound like instant classics. Is it rock? Bluegrass? Funk? Punk? All of the above and more.

6. Sound Tribe Sector 9: Peaceblaster
These electronica-oriented, yet still organic jam rockers make their bones with their incendiary live shows, but this release captures that energy and delivers it in an album form that can get ya bumping in your car or grooving around the living room. The production value is dazzling, as the electronic layering is expertly mixed with top-shelf percussion and superbly tasteful guitar on songs that still inspire deep thoughts even though they’re instrumental. The band also put up a great informational companion site, www.peaceblaster.com

7. Alanis Morissette: Flavors of Entanglement
Alanis joined up with British electronica producer Guy Sigsworth to create a dynamic album that’s her most compelling work since her 1995 breakthrough. Tunes like “Citizen of the Planet,” “Straightjacket” and “Giggling Again for No Reason” ripple with unique sonic energy, while the rock goddess delivers an array of dazzling vocals demonstrating she’s still one of the best in the biz.

8. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: Cardinology
This album could have ranked higher but the songs are too short (it clocks in at a mere 40 minutes) and it could really use a couple more rockers. Still, Adams’ uniquely cathartic vocals are superb, the pedal steel guitar from Jon Graboff is majestic and it’s another solid collection of tunes. But it’s starting to look like Adams is falling victim to jam band recording disease – plays amazing live shows, can’t quite capture the same fire in the studio. Still waiting for another album to approach 2005’s best of the year Cold Roses.

9. The Watson Twins: Fire Songs
These Los Angeles-by-way-of Louisville gals break through in a major way with this compelling platter of alt-country magic. The identical twins’ otherworldly mix of country, soul, gospel and rock is mesmerizing – their voices are akin to the sirens they sing of on the ethereal last track, “Waves.” The girls can sort of rock ya too, on tunes like “Bar Woman Blues” and “How Am I to Be.” This is the first album since I can’t remember when that I was inspired to rush out and buy after witnessing a performance by a band I wasn’t so familiar with, following their revelatory Saturday night set opening for Railroad Earth at the Fillmore in September.

10. Anti-Flag: The Bright Lights of America
These political Pittsburgh punks polished up their sound a bit here to deliver an album of arena-ready rock that sounds big but still rails with punk angst and energy. The lyrics are a spot-on indictment of Uncle Sam’s paradigm of Titanic turmoil, and what could be more punk than that? Rolling Stone should be utterly ashamed to have given Bright Lights only two stars. Green Day’s American Idiot is the only punk album of the decade that tops it.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order)

King’s X: XV
Ty Tabor: Balance
The Black Crowes: Warpaint
Donna the Buffalo: Silverlined
Indigenous: Broken Lands
Widespread Panic: Free Somehow
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges
Jenny Lewis: Acid Tongue
Tea Leaf Green: Raise the Tent
Joan Osborne: Little Wild One
Railroad Earth: Amen Corner
Mike Gordon: The Green Sparrow
Lotus: Hammerstrike
Los Lonely Boys: Forgiven
Aimee Mann: @#%&*! Smilers
The Black Keys: Attack and Release
Taj Mahal: Maestro
Buddy Guy: Skin Deep

Strong albums by unsigned regional bands

Cleveland – Mifune: Time Is Watching Us
Husband and wife team Jacob (guitar) and Chris (vocals) Fader dial up a dazzling sound on their second album that blends the rhythms and horns of an afro-beat instrumentation with a groovy psychededelic jam vibe. The politically edgy lyrics continue a band tradition of looking for trouble with authority, and modern rock can always use more of that.

Dallas – The Bright: In Lucid Dreams
Formerly known as Superstring, the Bright’s mix of alt-rock edge with power pop grandeur and charismatic vocalist Julie Lange is a winning formula. The production value here is superb. They’ve licensed songs to MTV, but the major labels still haven’t called for some reason. The band’s cover of “Kashmir” is epic.

Oakland – The Passive Aggressives: Conflict Resolution
Take an alt-rock power trio with a heavy Les Claypool influence, add in a vocalist who’s like a cross between Alanis and Amy Lee, and you’ve got a powerhouse sound. Former Israeli Defense Forces member Keren Gaiser is a breakout star on the verge now that she’s shed her Celine Dion-style past and found her inner rock goddess.

Breakthrough artist of 2008

Cathy Richardson of Jefferson Starship – She not only sounds amazing on the album, she delivers stunning power and mesmerizing rock ‘n’ roll mojo onstage, from Airplane classics to the new mashup “Imagine Redemption.” She’s got the skills to land next to Grace Slick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame some day.

Live performance awards

Multiple-night performance of the year

Phil Lesh & Friends @ the Warfield Theater, San Francisco CA
May 13-14, 16-18
This monumental run of five shows in six nights to close down the Bill Graham Presents era at the venerable Warfield was simply stunning, in so many ways. Start off with the fact that the 68-year-old bassist is not only still truckin’, but is at the height of his powers. The first three shows offered the Grateful Dead’s first six albums played in their entirety, but of course way more jammed out, which was tremendous. The sets featuring the GD’s eponymous debut album on night one and American Beauty on night three were among the best sets that Lesh has played since Jerry left us.

Night four featured two live albums in their entirety and then the finale was a three-set, six-and-a-half hour marathon akin to New Year’s Eve in May, complete with “Sugar Magnolia” balloon drop to kick off the last set. Lesh topped that off by offering up a free soundboard of the electrifying 5/13 show, a magnanimous gesture he is generally known to grant at least once per tour. How many other artists can say the same?

Unprecedented collaboratory jam of the year

New Monsoon + EOTO @ The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – February 9
EOTO, the new electronica project from String Cheese Incident percussionists Michael Travis and Jason Hann, warmed up the night – with guest help from SCI mandolinist Michael Kang – for a set that blew the roof off. New Monsoon’s second set opener then built one by one until all members of both bands were onstage for an epic jam that summoned all of the Fillmore’s legendary psychedelic power.

  

Related Posts