December 30, 2009

Top 10 Rock Concerts of the Decade

10. Brian Wilson
Venue: Royce Hall, Westwood
Date: Nov. 1, 2006

There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe this performance by one of rock's true legends. After years of stage fright and phoning in his performances, the erstwhile Beach Boy's singing -- yes, his singing -- made this night unforgettable: confident, unhesitant and, most notably, solo. Gone were the tentative, almost meek vocals he had offered onstage just a few years earlier. The set list visited at least 15 Beach Boys albums dating back to 1963, but the centerpiece was a brilliant run-through of "Pet Sounds," which was marking its 40th anniversary. But this was more than a mere recital; master of melody Wilson and his stellar 11-piece band somehow improved on the record, adding a flourish here and a little extension there. And he provided several jaw-dropping solo vocal moments; after fairly drilling "God Only Knows," he was visibly moved by the spontaneous standing ovation. And there was no shortage of broad smiles in the audience all night.

9. The Mars Volta
Venue: Henry Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles
Date: July 1, 2003

And now for something completely different. Drifting from spacey to chaotic and several points in between, the band's local coming-out party was a defiant, unhurried mix of prog, punk, metal and classic rock that had most in the curious crowd silently transfixed. A few were seen covertly covering their ears. Something akin to modern head music, the anti-melodic onslaught was punctuated with flagellant rhythmic bursts and eerie effects. Weird songs with odd titles -- "Drunkship of Lanterns" was a showstopping tour de force -- alternately featured Cedric Bixler's Robert Plant drones or early Geddy Lee wails and Omar Rodriguez's free-form firestorm guitar. The band played with distinctive passion, power and a screw-you confidence, content in knowing that they ain't for everybody. Challenging, gutsy and damn good.

8. Flogging Molly
Venue: the Troubadour, West Hollywood
Date: March 15, 2002

Expat Irishman Dave King and his band have been destroying venues for more than a decade and continue to be one of the most exciting bands in rock -- indie or otherwise. They proudly mix accordion, fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, banjo and Guinness into a strong and unique concoction that blows away any pop punks in the top 10. This cramped, intimate hometown show captured the septet at full power, drawing sudsy pints o' punk from its pair of numbingly good albums. Many songs began like ballads then exploded into barnburners, especially "Black Friday Rule," which featured a raucous guitar-and-drum breakdown that gave way to a washboard and bodhran coda. That song and this band never fail to deliver live. Go see them -- and hope they end with that hilarious take on Tom Jones' "Delilah." If they do, listen for the crowd's embellishment during the chorus.

7. Simon & Garfunkel
Venue: Staples Center
Date: Nov. 17, 2003

This could have been a mess for any of a number of reasons, not the least of which was Paul Simon's illness that forced cancellation of an Orange County show a few nights earlier. But the revered duo's first local gig in 20 years was a melange of gorgeous harmonies, reworked arrangements and unforced camaraderie that evoked much of the decades-old magic. Simon and Art Garfunkel even poked fun -- vaudeville-shtick-style -- at their well-documented feuding. Classic after classic was trotted out, and there was a palpable anticipation in the arena during the intro to "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Garfunkel didn't disappoint; you could almost see him reach down to summon the stirring climactic lines and notes. While their sixtysomething voices couldn't quite elicit the bone-tingling beauty of those classic records, their show reminded that this was one of rock's great acts. A four-song mini-set by the Everly Brothers halfway through only enhanced the evening.

6. Green Day
Venue: the Forum, Inglewood
Date: Aug. 25, 2009

Billie Joe Armstrong is hammy enough to do whatever it takes to entertain yet savvy enough to avoid veering toward self-parody. This was among the great arena-rock shows Los Angeles has seen in ages because he decided to go all-out -- or rather, all in. It seemed like he used every trick that ever got a rise from any crowd and unleashed it on this one: booming pyrotechnics, call and response, count-offs, incited clap-alongs and arm waves, name-checking the tour stop, venturing into the crowd, bringing folks onstage, cannon-firing T-shirts, making exaggerated and drawn-out band intros. There even was a full mooning. All this and touring behind a damn good record while playing many old hits and album cuts. With a concert that seemed focused on cementing Green Day's legacy as a great live act, this was Professional Show Business all the way; and it rocked.

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You missed one. Dec. 2007 - Led Zeppelin should be in the list. 25 million computers trying to get tickets and it crashes the system. Then, a concert that gets raves reviews for a group that hadn't played together for 20 years.

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Top 10 Rock Concerts
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Top 10 Sleeper Movie Hits
Top 10 Outrageous Reality TV Moments
Top 10 Shocking Hollywood Job Exits
Top 10 Misbegotten Media Mergers
Top 10 Technologies Tormenting Hollywood
Top 10 Movie Flops
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  • You missed one. Dec. 2007 - Led Zeppelin should be in the list. 25 million computers trying to get tickets and it crashes the system. Then, a concert that gets raves reviews for a group that hadn't played together for 20 years.

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