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Oops, I DO Have One More List!

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From today's Live column in Weekend -- my choices for the best live concerts of 2007. Forgot I'd filed this column! Click on the links to read my original overnight reviews. And now, no more lists for at least a couple of months -- I promise.

For many people, going to the "right" concert is a matter of being seen and bragging that you're there: Witness the number of folks ignoring the artist as they spend the whole time on their cell phones, boasting to their friends about how cool the show is.

For hard-core music fans, the concert experience is more about the never-ending search for that elusive moment when the performer, the crowd, the time and the place all combine to create a feeling that can only be called transcendent. As the pop music critic at the Sun-Times, I'm lucky to have a healthy handful of these magical moments every year, though more often than not, they happen at smaller or unexpectedly great gigs than at the much-hyped, top-dollar concerts by the likes of the Police, Van Halen or Hannah Montana.

Here then, for my last column of the year, is my list of the 10 best shows I saw in 2007, charted in chronological order. I hope you had as many great live music moments as I did during the last 365 days, and I look forward to seeing you in the clubs, theaters, arenas and parks in 2008.

1. Fall Out Boy at the House of Blues, Feb. 6

Playing three shows in less than 24 hours is an impressive feat under the best circumstances -- especially when the morning gig is in New York, the afternoon show is in Chicago and the evening performance is on a rooftop in Los Angeles, and the Windy City happens to be in the midst of a snowstorm. Somehow, Chicago's chart-topping pop-punk heroes pulled it off, delivering a rousing set to celebrate the release of their fourth and best album, "From Infinity on High," and kicking off a year that would see them become our town's biggest rock band since the Smashing Pumpkins (who couldn't even be bothered to grace us with one of their many reunion gigs).

2. Justin Timberlake at the United Center, March 12

J.T. wasn't quite as good at this show as he'd been during his House of Blues gig in 2006, but he still delivered the goods, maintaining his reputation as the top male artist in dance-pop today, and bringing sexy back as he led a kicking 11-piece band. Yes, the show lagged a bit when he paused to deliver several songs on acoustic guitar and upright piano. But his fans only screamed louder and swooned a bit more.

3. Arcade Fire at the Chicago Theatre, May 18

On the first of a sold-out three-night stand supporting their second full album, "The Neon Bible," Montreal's orchestral pop heroes kept up their tradition of entering from the rear of the theater and walking down the center aisle while banging on drums. From there, the syncopated rhythmic undertow rarely let up as the musicians traded off on hurdy-gurdy, mandolin, French horn, tuba, trombone, two violins and even a scaled-down pipe organ, in addition to indie rock's standard bass, drums, guitar and synthesizer.


4. Yoko Ono at the Pitchfork Music Festival, July 14

In its third year, the city's best rock festival reached its climax with a rare live appearance by a 74-year-old rock legend who's become an icon to underground music fans who couldn't care less about whether she helped break up the Beatles. Backed by an accomplished band and joined for a cameo by Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, Ono made clear her pre-John Lennon roots in the classical avant-garde (with John Cage and La Monte Young) and free jazz (with Ornette Coleman), as well as conjuring the underrated noise-rock of the Plastic Ono Band in the early '70s. And the finale was breathtaking as she led the crowd in a chant of "War is over if you want it" while Union Park was illuminated by the thousands of flashlights her crew distributed before the show.


5. Grinderman at Metro, July 25

Yes, I loved the self-titled debut by Nick Cave's raw, raunchy blues-rock side project the minute I first heard it, and "Grinderman" wound up being my choice for the best album of 2007. But that didn't guarantee a great concert: Plenty of heroes have delivered on album but let me down live. Thankfully, Grinderman's short, sharp shock of a set at Metro was even sexier, more urgent, more intense and more electrifying than its recordings, and that's truly saying something.


6. The Stooges at Lollapalooza, Aug. 5


For as massive an undertaking as it is, Perry Farrell's three-day soiree has provided relatively few memorable moments during its first three years in Grant Park. With one incendiary 45-minute show, Detroit's reunited punk progenitors most likely claimed bragging rights to the greatest Lolla gig ever as they destroyed the well-mannered shopping-mall vibe with an eruption of pure chaos, inviting a significant portion of the massive crowd to join them onstage for a sloppy, dangerous and completely out of control version of "No Fun." Rock 'n' roll isn't supposed to be polite, well-marketed, family-oriented and neatly packaged like most of Lollapalooza, and the Stooges reminded us that it still can be something more.


7. Wilco at Millennium Park, Sept. 12


Homeboy Jeff Tweedy and the band sounded rather sleepy on their sixth proper album, "Sky Blue Sky." But in concert at the lakefront's classy and previously rock-averse new venue, they wowed their loyal fans by veering between dynamic extremes and reinventing their songs to fit the moment. This was jamming as Neil Young perfected it with Crazy Horse, and it had nothing to do with the Grateful Dead or any of that ilk.


8. Genesis at the United Center, Oct. 2

While the half of this show devoted to the progressive-rockers' later-day MTV pop was thoroughly mediocre, the half that reprised older material such as a brilliant medley of "In the Cage," "The Cinema Show," "Duke's Travels" and "Afterglow" was nothing short of phenomenal, and in a year of much-ballyhooed blockbuster reunions, this was my favorite.


9. Jay-Z at the House of Blues, Nov. 7


A year after his first disappointing comeback attempt, the 37-year-old New Yorker reclaimed his throne and justified his status as the best-selling rapper of all time with a strong new album, "American Gangster," and an even more powerful career-spanning performance fronting a 13-piece band for an intimate crowd that hung on every word of his biggest hits and free-styled rhymes.


10. Neil Young at the Chicago Theatre, Nov. 12

Taking the stage on the evening of his 62nd birthday, Young followed the model of his classic 1979 concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps," by giving us one set in his solo acoustic mode and another with the full-on electric fury of a great band featuring some of his best-ever sidemen. Long may he run.

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11 Comments

Genesis? Their career arc took them from pretentious nimrods to money-grubbing whores. You seem to prefer the pretentious nimrod years. I guess I would as well if I was forced to make a choice. Fall Out Boy reminds me of another of your favorites-Smashing Pumkins. Both are fond of lyrics that would feel right at home in the pages of a high school freshman's notebook. As for Justin Timberlake, well, to each their own. I mean I like energy in a performer too. I also like intelligence, originality and a sense that they are trying to do something with their music besides make money from it. Too bad you couldn't find time to see people like Jon Brion, Sharon Jones, Bruce Springsteen or M. Ward. All put on memorable shows this year without resorting to the show-business hackery you seem to find so appealing.

Genesis was a great band from "Trespass" (1970) through "...And Then There Were Three" (1978), and the half of their set on the recent tour that focused on that material was extraordinary.

Jon Brion is pretty cool, too, though.

Hey Jim I read your Best in Show review and like what you saw but were you able to catch the full Crossroads Guitar Festival this past July at Toyota Park. I thought it was an amazing show and definietly worthy of a Top 2 nomination for best concerts this year, what do you think?

Mike: I had a conflict the weekend of the Guitar Fest, but my colleague Jeff Johnson reviewed it and did a fine job. I was sorry to have missed Jeff Beck.

Yoko? Wow- I hate to say it, but you have lost all respectability with that clunker. It’s just bad music Jim.

The Jeff Beck concert performance at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival this past summer merited inclusion as one of the year's best. You predicted that Jeff Beck's set would be excellent in your article that previewed the Festival. The 63 year old guitar virtuoso enthralled the audience with his peerless riffs and mastery of the fretboard. His instrumental rendition of the Beatles " A Day In The Life" was spellbinding.

Brien Comerford
Glenview

Jim great article today, and insightful recap of concert-goers and live concerts.

I almost had a huge complaint with you when I noticed that Clapton's "Crossroads Guitar Festival" was not on your list!
Then, I read the fine print and realized you said concerts "that you attended'. I remember at the time that you did not attend that historic day in Bridgeview with THE legends of Rock and Blues....

As a 57 year old lover of music, that concert was THE dream concert..Hope you at least watched the DVD..
Jeff Beck's performance, along with Winwood's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" performance was worth the price of admission..

Thanks for all your great music articles and info over the years in the Sun-Times.

Sincerely,
Rick Fobes
Plainfield, Illinois

On that second day of Pitchfork my friends and family abandoned me to head across town to one of the other festivals to see the Knitters; I stuck around to see Dan Deacon, Cat Power, and Yoko. Deacon's set was amazing to experience (and the crowd experience is every bit a key component of his performance), Cat Power was a snooze, but Yoko's set was without a doubt one of the most powerful performances I'd ever seen. It was breathtaking and unexpected. I've never owned a Yoko album in my life, and what I'd heard has never engaged me. It's not the vocals (I'm still listening to Meredith Monk after three decades), and it's not the noise/pop hybrid (I'm disappointed that the Mark Smith/Von Südenfed disc didn't make it onto any best-of lists...); it just that her records have always had a cold distance to them. The Pitchfork set, on the other hand, was both emotional and intellectual in a way that was profoundly touching.

Who else was in the band besides Stephen Trask?

Your all-consuming hatred of the Grateful Dead has gone from annoying to alarming. There was really no need to take a shot at them in your recent column relative to Wilco, just as there was no reason to do the same in your infamous Hottie and the Blowfish reveiw. Get some help.

Best wishes in 2008.

Tom Croke
Kildeer, IL

Yoko Ono - Rock Legend? Icon? I find both of those labels insulting to the Rock Community. I've always been skeptical of your ability as a music critic, but this is the final straw! The very fact that you mistake her caterwauling as music is absurd. The only reason she is famous is because of her association with John Lennon.

Fall Out Boy? I can't get behind that at all. Didn't you knock them in a different live review? Their music is horrible pop crap that is polluting America's tastes. The state of music in America is in a very sorry state. This band is just contributing to it's downfall.

Other than that, I can usually stand by your opinion and MILK IT was a great book.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on December 28, 2007 9:22 AM.

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