I should note that some of these artists I have seen multiple times, so I will only list my favorite concert from each particular artist. Otherwise the top 10 could easily include multiple repeats.
Pearl Jam (May 2006 – Camden, New Jersey)
I’ve seen Pearl Jam a total of three times over the past few years, and I have yet to see a bad show by them. Pearl Jam treat their shows like every single one is a special event. Eddie Vedder is the Pete Townshend of lead singers – jumping across the stage and doing guitar acrobatics that lesser men would like downright silly even to attempt. The last time I saw them in DC in 2008, they only made it about a minute into “Evacuation” before the band stumbled. In the old days, Vedder might have walked off screaming. Instead the band laughed it off, and went on to the next show like nothing happened.
I realize that I probably might get shit on for including Pearl Jam on this list by some people I know. I still think that the lady at the concession lying when she said that drinks were no longer being served at the “artists’ request”.
The New Pornographers (October 2007 – 930 Club, Washington DC)
Twin Cinema is easily one of the best rock-pop records of the 2000s. On record The New Pornographers have a lot of energy, but live they are well-oiled machine. Neko Case and Carl Newman remain the band’s not-so secret weapon united in harmony, but it’s amazing to see them pull it off so effortlessly on songs like “All The Things That Go Make Heaven and Earth”, and “Use It”. And when the coda for “The Bleeding Heart Show” kicks in, you wish it would go on forever.
Kings of Leon (October 2005 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)
In 2005, Kings of Leon were down right sleazy. Not like the pretty boys and rock- pop cons you know today. If the whiskey soaked songs, and dank of Sonar weren’t enough, the show included girls dancing on poles between sets and a magic show. You could feel the sweat flying from the Followills foreheads as they blazed through countrified-punk versions of “The Bucket” and “Slow Night So Slow”. Appropriately enough, they closed with the aptly titled, “Trani”.
The concert was awesome, but things turned sour later on, including being stuck in a traffic jam with the gas-tank on empty, and a fall down a flight of stairs. (Both incidents turned out to be ok, but the gas tank was a close-call.)
The Black Crowes (August 2007 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)
Another show at Sonar. This is not really a criticism, but The Black Crowes are the best Rolling Stones cover band with original songs. It was an old-fashioned rock and roll show at its best. I distinctly remember it being the hottest night of the year – it was so fucking hot, and the compressed venue of Sonar only made it worse. But somehow, it only seemed fitting to see the Crowes that way.
The Pixies (December 2009 – Constitution Hall, Washington DC)
I ended up going to this show at the last minute. I got a phone-call in the afternoon from a friend telling me that an extra ticket was available. So off I drove to DC during rush-hour to go see The Pixies. I was almost late because I got lost to my friends house on the way – even though I had driven there at least 5 times prior.
This show was part of The Pixies “Doolittle Tour”. Prior to this show, I had never seen a whole album show, and was curious about how it come off. The songs off of Doolittle are short and concise, so even the duds (there are really only about 3 off of an otherwise great album) are over before you know it. The big songs – “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man” got the most response, but it was on “There Goes My Gun” and “Vamos” The Pixies really came alive. The former proved that even in his mid 40s, Frank Black can still scream like a motherfucker, and the latter included an extended feedback solo that peeled the paint off of the otherwise stale Constitution Hall.