2009 was an excellent year for concerts. I saw nearly 50 different bands this year at over 20 different shows (some were multi day, multi band festivals). I had a very difficult time narrowing it down to the top 5, however each of the shows below stood out from the rest in their own ways.
#5 Nine Inch Nails at The Pearl in Las Vegas
If you haven't seen a show at The Pearl at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, you need to. Its a smaller venue with modern acoustics. There isn't a bad seat in the house and the sound is better than any other venue I've been to (and I've been to a lot). This was the 2nd NIN/Janes Additions (NINJA) show I caught on this tour. The first gets an honorable mention due to excellent fan club seats at Cricket Amphitheater, however this one blew it away. The setlist had many favorites, including The Day the World Went Away . Trent Reznor has billed this as the "Wave Goodbye" tour and claims it will be the last full fledged tour he does as Nine Inch Nails although they will continue to produce music.
#4 Pearl Jam at Viejas Arena (SDSU) San Diego
Photo above is from the show in Philadelphia
Pearl Jam was another band I was fortunate enough to see twice on the same tour. The first was October 9th at the Viejas Arena in San Diego, the 2nd was Halloween night in Philadelphia, previously blogged about here. It was tough choosing the better of the two shows, I imagine its a lot like deciding which one of your children you love the most. Both had a lot of unique moments that differentiated one from another. In San Diego, Eddie Vedder sang happy birthday to the daugher of one of his road crew. He also brought his guitar teacher (from San Diego) on stage to play a song with them. In Philadelphia they covered DEVO's whip it (pictured) and played an extended set full of hits. The edge goes to the San Diego show because the date I took the to Philadelphia show had an abundance of hair on their ass while my date to the San Diego show, does not.
#3 Mogwai at All Points West festival New Jersey
Mogwai is an amazing post/prog rock band from Scotland. I was lucky to catch them twice this year, once on each coast. The first was at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, then 2nd at the All Points West Festival in New Jersey. For this show, I had splurged for indulgent VIP tickets that gave me an amazing view for the main stage (more on that below) however Mogwai, not as well known as say, Coldplay, was relegated to the 2nd stage mid day. There was no VIP viewing area for this particular stage so I was nearly forced to view this show with the commoners out in the grass. Luckily I prodded the manager of the VIP area, and he offered to get me on stage for the Mogwai set (despite the band requesting a CLOSED stage during the performance). Myself and Maija were 2 of 4 people not in the band or their crew that were allowed on stage, and as you can see from the picture the perspective was very unique. During some songs the keyboardist actually came to stage right to stand next to me!
EXCLUSIVE BONUS VIDEO! Taken from the side of the stage
#2 Tool at All Points West festival New Jersey
Tool was the Saturday night headliner for the All Points West Festival in New Jersey and the main reason I splurged for the aforementioned VIP tickets. I was able to get a viewing spot a few feet from the stage dead center. Unfortunately I do not have many pictures from this show, however I assure you it was worthy of the #2 spot. Due to Tool's popularity, there are few opportunities to see the band from such a close vantage point (without risking physical harm). The show was full of energy, although the setlist was the exact same as the previous four times I had seen them, and the same as the subsequent Epicenter music festival in Pomona where they finished their summer tour.
#1 Mastodon at Street Scene San Diego
If you haven't heard of Mastodon, do yourself a favor and check out their latest release, Crack the Skye Voted as one of the top albums of 2009 by all of the major rock magazine and (surprisingly) TIME Magazine. I was excited when I heard they would be playing San Diego's own Street Scene but slightly disappointed when the set times were announced and they were put on a small side stage at 7pm. This turned out to be a gift as it allowed my crew to get standing room about two feet from the stage and watch the band play the entire Crack the Skye album from start to finish. The band was really into the show. Lead guitarist Bent Hinds stepped down from the stage towards the crowd to play his solo on Oblivion. The sound was surprisingly good for an outdoor venue, especially when you consider the fact that this was not the main stage. Not only was this the best show I saw in all of 2009, it was easily one of the best shows I've seen in my entire life. (and I've seen hundreds). It almost makes up for the band cancelling an exclusive private studio session at FM 94.9 the day before that Maija had won tickets to!
See how many blog regulars you can identify by the back of their heads alone in the video below.
Puscifer at The Pearl Las Vegas. Alice In Chains at the Epicenter Festival in Pomona, Gogol Bordello at All Points West in New Jersey. Mogwai at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Julian Plenti at the House of Blues San Diego, Mastodon at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. Ghostland Observatory at All Points West in New Jersey (1) (2)
Biggest Disappointment live: Silversun Pickups at Coachella in Indio California.
Band I never want to see live again:
My Bloody Valentine at Coachella in Indio California and All Points West Festival in New Jersey
Band I know HNB would have loved the most:
Coldplay at All Points West in New Jersey