2005 Recap, Part 1, Concerts of the Year
I'm going to begin my recap of the year in music with my favorite concerts of 2005. I went to about 30 shows or so, so I feel like I can make a pretty good determination of what was good and what wasn't. Hey, I'm only one man, and one man who works 40 hours a week no less, I can't see them all, but hopefully this list will be comprehensive enough for you guys.
1) M.I.A. at Coachella - In each year of my Coachella experience there has been one performance where I've felt as if I was witnessing something truly special. Last year it was the Pixies, and this year it was a little Sri Lankan girl by way of England named M.I.A. Now, I know I probably didn't need to introduce her, but you must remember, this was the end of April, and her album had only recently been released in the US, not to mention that this was only her second show in the United States, EVER. The crowd had no idea what to expect, but they were out en masse for a mid-afternoon show in one of the side tents, and I could feel the anticipation growing as we waited for M.I.A. to take the stage. When she did, the crowd went absolutely insane and she fed off the energy, sending her performance through the roof. The mutual love between M.I.A. and the crowd created one of the best concert environments I've ever been a part of, and it took only a few songs for me to understand that I was watching a superstar being born before my eyes. (to read more about the performance see my Coachella wrap-up in the May, 2005 archives of the blog)
2) The Decemberists at the 930 Club (October 2nd) - When The Decemberists came to town in the Spring, I hesitated about going and by the time I'd made my decision to go, the show had sold out. When they came back a few months later, I had had some time to digest their new album, Picaresque, a bit more, as well as delve further into their back catalogue and had become a full fledged Decemberists fan. (something I couldn't have said in the Spring) They opened the show by playing their five-part opus The Tain in its entirety, complete with acting out scenes and instrument-switching galore. They continued on playing note-perfect renditions of Picaresque songs as well as throwing in a few songs from older albums here and there. The regular set closer, "The Mariner's Revenge Song" was absolutely brilliant with the audience being asked to participate by screaming like they were being eaten by a whale. Multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk ran around the stage with working giant wooden whale head as the audience went crazy. What made this show so spectacular wasn't just the excellent music or the performance aspect of the show, but the band's energy and excitement to be performing for us. Colin Meloy had repeated looks in his eyes that almost said, "I can't believe I get paid to do this." Some people may love bombastic rock stars, but when artists have this humble attitude towards peforming, it makes me feel like I'm witnessing something personal and it brings the audience closer.
3) Depeche Mode at the Patriot Center (December 9th) - I'm just going to throw this out there right now, there is no better frontman in music right now than Dave Gahan. Even at the age of 43, the man has just as much, if not more, energy than he had in Depeche Mode's late 80s hey-day, and he still has the body to take off his shirt and get the girls screaming when shakes his ass. Though they may have played one or two too many songs from the new album (not that it's bad, there were just countless old songs I wanted to hear that didn't get played), everything they did looked and sounded spectacular. Their elaborate stage set featuring a giant robot, several screens and futuristic looking keyboard stands was about as visually pleasing as any I've ever seen. But in the end it came down to the music and the energy. By the time they launched into a blistering version of "I Feel You," (a song I was convinced I didn't like until right then) the crowd was putty in Gahan's hands and anything he asked for was given to him by the crowd with pure joy, from handclaps to singing to swinging their arms from side to side. After that, the hits just kept on coming, climaxing in a version of "Everything Counts" that seemed to be right off the 101 live album and had the crowd going wild. I would've liked them to play for another hour or two, but I guess leaving a show wanting to hear more isn't the worst feeling in the world. I wasn't sure what Depeche Mode would be like after all these years, but damn, they definitely still have it.
4) Sigur Ros at Strathmore Music Center (September 11th) - I think anything I had to say about this show I said in my review of it back in September which you can read here: http://mattstarr.blogspot.com/2005/09/finally-real-update.html
Let me reiterate, this was an intense experience, one I definitely recommend having if you get the chance. (That is, of course, saying that you like Sigur Ros, if not, you might not enjoy the show nearly as much)
5) LCD Soundsystem & M.I.A. at the 930 Club (June 12th) - Now, I hesitated before putting M.I.A. on here twice, but the strength of this double bill was just too hard to ignore. Between when this show was scheduled and when it actually occurred, I think M.I.A. may have actually eclipsed LCD Soundsystem in popularity, but they kept to the plan and M.I.A. remained the opening act. The crowd for her wasn't quite as intense as at Coachella, especially early on as the late-comers were still filing into the venue, but about halfway through, the audience started to get their collective bounce on and the energy level in the 930 Club skyrocketed. I almost felt bad for LCD Soundsystem having to follow up such an intense performance, but James Murphy and company were more than up to the task. They only played about 9 or 10 songs, but each one veered off into some sort of dance-punk tangent, kinda like a jam band, only much much cooler and with music you can actually dance to and don't need drugs to enjoy. Murphy went wild when he wasn't singing, shaking his bevy of tambourines, banging on a small drum set and playing whatever other instruments were untended at any particular moment. I'm not going to go off on any sort of emotional tangent here, because I was never brought to the verge of tears at any moment, but dammit, I had some serious fun and danced my fucking ass off.