Best Shows: First Half 2011

Originally Published In The Daily Free Press on 5/5/2011

Best Act:

DeVotchKa @ Paradise:
It’s not very often you see a bouzouki live……or a theremin…or a sousaphone, yet DeVotchKa incorporated all of these into its thrilling and eclectic set. They played their indie-standard “How It Ends” in a sea of Eastern-European romps and rollicking Latin numbers that moved audience members better than a rousing speech at the UN. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Urata crooned the night away and the band’s cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” was unexpected, yet awesome.

Honorable Mention:
Cold War Kids @ House of Blues
While their latest album might be a bit stale, I always love watching Cold War Kids live. Lead singer Nathan Willett’s voice sounds as great as it does in studio and recent classics such as the ever-dirty “Hang Me Up to Dry” and the AA advertisement “We Used To Vacation” sound as good today as they did in 2006.

Best Opening Act:
Royal Bangs (for Foster The People/Grouplove) @ Brighton Music Hall:
It’s interesting that I place Royal Bangs here as I actually thought they were going to be the headliner due to some confusing advertisements on Brighton Music Hall’s part. Being the first of two openers, Royal Bangs didn’t have a long set to work with and yet they impressed me much more than the other two bands. The band recently jumped on my radar after hearing of their Myspace discovery by Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney. Their fun, quirky, hectic and electric songs such as “Fireball” and “War Bells” came alive in what was an all-too-short set.

Honorable Mention: Hacienda before Greenhornes @ Brighton Music Hall:
Look out Patrick Carney, you’ve got some competition. The day before Royal Bangs took stage at Brighton, Hacienda opened for The Greenhornes. Who discovered this soulful group that prides itself on fuzzy bass, delicate organ and an overall throwback blues sound you ask? Why it’s none other than Dan Auerbach, Carney’s very own Black Keys bandmate.

Best BU Show:

The Antlers @ BU Central:
Randomly popping up on BU Central’s calendar a week before the concert, the Antlers played a lively and free show – well, “partially funded by your undergraduate degree” – in which they covered ground from the haunting Hospice while débuting four new songs from their 2011 standout, Burst Apart. I went into the show wondering if they could translate their ethereal tracks into captivating live performances and came out with a very definite answer – hell yes.


Pleasant Surprise
Dr. Dog @ Paradise:
Dr. Dog has always been one of my favorite mid-tier bands, meaning that while I enjoy what I have heard, I have yet to devote enough time to fully explore every last corner of their discography. They delivered a super-tight show of 60s and 70s-influenced indie rock such as “The Ark,” a grooving track with guitar that would fit perfectly on John Lennon’s Imagine.

Most Bummed About Missing:
The Arcade Fire w/ The National @ Anywhere:
So my two favorite modern day bands were under one roof and I missed it? Augh! Unfortunately for us East/West Coasters the two bands filled arenas in Chicago, St. Louis and other Middle American cities without venturing toward either ocean.  Last year I had the honor of standing right up at the front of the pit when The Arcade Fire took Madison Square Garden but I am still kicking myself for never once making it to see The National. To quote myself in an earlier MUSE article, “Seeing baritone vocalist Matt Berninger get tipsy off white wine, singing the plight of middle-aged men over the Dessner twins’ intricate backing music and Bryce Devendorf’s elaborate drumming” combined withArcade Fire’s frenzied and cathartic performances would have simply blown my mind.
Honorable Mention:
Any of the last few LCD Soundsystem shows at Terminal 5 or Madison Square Garden. It would have been a thrill to see someone great like James Murphy dance hmself clean with all my friends at homein New York. Puns…

Looking Ahead:
I’ve only got one concert ticket purchased for the future and that’s for the Antlers in NYC. I’m definitely excited about that show, as now that Burst Apart has been hitting the live circuit, they’ll be playing a lot more from the new album. Otherwise, perhaps I’ll try and make it to see The Kills or Portugal. The Man (both in NYC).


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