Monday, December 12, 2005

Ben's Top 5 Live in 05

Coincidentally, I was already gearing up to make this list before I saw Rob did his. Like Rob, I saw a shitload of shows this year, and I also attended a majority of them with Rob. Without further ado, my list:

1. The Arcade Fire w/ Wolf Parade (Riviera, Chicago, Sept. 28)
I had already seen the Arcade Fire twice the year before (at the Logan Square Auditorium on Thanksgiving, and, then, at the Empty Bottle the following night). I honestly believed that seeing Arcade Fire at the Riviera could not beat the intimacy and power of their show in a tiny club with a couple hundred fans. Against all odds, the Riviera show blew my fucking mind (and topped the previous two shows). The band (now 9 people strong) was playing like a telepathically linked unit erupting with unhinged intensity and emotion. To make it even better, they began the show by covering Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (which quickly segued into "Wake Up" after a few verses) and then covered David Bowie's "Five Years" about halfway through the set.
I was also dying to see how Wolf Parade would turn out live. I had been enamored with them for most of the year and having both theses bands on the same bill had me in a childlike state of euphoria. Wolf Parade came out blazing with "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" andleft me gasping for the next 40 mins. Christ, I can't even articulate how immensely exciting it was hearing "This Heart's On Fire" and "I'll Believe in Anything" back to back.

2. Sleater-Kinney (3 shows)
I was lucky enough to see Sleater-Kinney three times this year - twice in Chicago, and once in Knoxville, TN (the home of my alma mater). It's hard for me to pick a favorite of the three shows, but I might just lean towards the Knoxville show. It was a free, outdoor show and they played like they had to convert every single person in a 10 block radius; and, I got to see the show with my girlfriend and younger brother. I have been a fiercely loyal fan of theirs since I discovered Dig Me Out when I was 17, but I had not been able to see them live until this year. Fortunately, they also chose to release the best album of their already stellar career this year. All three shows drew heavily from The Woods and the older songs they played were sort of given a "Woods" makeover - louder, fuzzier, and more powerful than their studio versions. I can not overstate how jaw-droppingly awe-inspiring Corin Tucker is live. I could write volumes on how powerful and commanding her voice is - whether she is howling "The Fox" or cooing "Little Babies," Corin is a force of nature. The union of Corin and Carrie Brownstein's magnificent guitar duels and Janet Weiss's torrential drum fills is a thing of legend.

3. Sigur Ros (Chicago Theatre, Chicago, September 21)
I had already been swept away by Sigur Ros once before on their previous tour, but this show was even better. The stage setup and lighting just magnified how transcendental their songs can be. Now that Sigur Ros have been around for half a decade, I almost feel that any gushing, hyperbolic, adjective-filled review would just be redundant and cliche. So, I will just say that hearing the climax of "Viðrar vel til loftárása" (Track 7 on Ágætis Byrjun) live while having my vision completely consumed by a continuous wash of white light was one of the most emotional musical experiences I've ever had in my life.

4. Built To Spill (Metro, Chicago, May 7 and 8)
My situation with Built To Spill is much like the one with Sleater-Kinney - diehard fan since high school, but, just never saw them perform live -well, I did see them play two years ago, but, it was such a short, lackluster show that I prefer to forget about it. Thankfully, these two nights at the Metro restored my faith in Doug Martsch. The band (now augmented by the additional guitar talents of Jim Roth and Brett Netson) played with renewed passion and vigor, and the setlist was incontestable. When the band tore into their epics, "Virginia Reel Around The Fountain", "Velvet Waltz", and "Stab", the three guitars locked into a glorious rhapsody that, to this day, has very few peers. And Built To spill is still the best indie rock jam-band since Television.

5. Animal Collective (Empty Bottle, Chicago, April 27)
I went into this show expecting the worst, but, I was completely elated the entire show. I was also fortunate enough to have heard some of the new material the band had been playing on this tour. Animal Collective live is a completely different beast than Animal Collective in the studio. There were no breaks between songs, just segues in and out of songs. At all times, the band was whimsical, feral, and utterly mesmerizing. God, I have never been so unashamed of dancing and singing (or hollering in the case of "We Tigers" and the second half of "Kids on Holiday") at a concert. Hearing the sprawling tribal stomp of "The Purple Bottle" put the forthcoming Feelsat the top of my most wanted new albums list.

5 more honorable mentions:

6) Sufjan Stevens
7) Kraftwerk
8) Modest Mouse
9) Architecture in Helsinki
10) Bob Dylan (the performance itself was disheartening, but, still, I finally got to see Bobby)


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