Monday, April 15, 2024

The Top 10 Concerts of 2011

10. Sleigh Bells at Grand Central, Miami. What a difference a year makes. This Brooklyn indie rock/dance duo still didn’t have enough songs to exceed a 30-minute set, but its show at Grand Central showed a maturity and a subtle evolution from its 2010 performance at Respectable Street, with the larger venue speaking volumes about its growing appeal. Roof-shaking, all-too-brief fun.

9. Girl Talk at Fillmore Miami Beach. At Girl Talk shows, the “performance” aspect is secondary to the atmosphere created by the mash-up deejay’s throbbing fans, who crowded the dance floor of the Fillmore to transform the stately concert hall into a neon rave. Mixing classic rap, modern hip-hop, indie rock and ‘90s alternative into bouncy cocktails, Girl Talk had us all shaking our derrieres to his strange brews.

8. John Vanderslice at Propaganda, Lake Worth. The meager turnout for Propaganda’s first major concert from a national act was disappointing, but the solo set from this brainy, tuneful singer-songwriter left his devoted fans wanting more. Vanderslice’s humorous stories and unplugged, off-stage encore highlighted the show almost as much as the marriage proposal, from a fan, midway through. After his girlfriend said yea, the floor cleared so the new fiancées could enjoy a lovely dance during “Promising Actress.”

7. Penn & Teller at Hard Rock Live, Hollywood. OK, so this wasn’t a music concert, but in a calendar year light with memorable shows, I had to

fill out the list. Funny and breathtaking, Penn and Teller reminded us why they’re the most popular magic duo in the country, exhuming a number of classic routines from their archive of illusions, from Teller’s pin-swallowing to Penn’s dangerous game with a nail gun.

6. The Boca Raton Symphonia at Mizner Park Amphitheater, Boca Raton. Classical music is generally a blind spot in my A&E knowledge base, but I couldn’t miss Boca’s top symphony orchestra providing a live score to “The Wizard of Oz” at this year’s Festival of the Arts Boca. It was a magical night, enriching an already engrossing film by leaps and bounds. The formula worked so well that the same cast will return next year to score “Casablanca.”

5. Cake at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, Boca Raton. A perfect band for Boca’s latest mid-sized concert venue, Cake kicked off 2011 with this lively, strange and cerebral January performance divided by an intermission. Contrary to the rules of most touring repertoires, Cake virtually ignored its new album, borrowing liberally from its extensive back catalog for the entire set list, which was OK by me.

4. Lucinda Williams at Parker Playhouse, Fort Lauderdale. In her first South Florida tour in God knows how long, Williams played for more than two hours at this gorgeous Fort Lauderdale playhouse, capturing all of her musical personas from bleeding-heart balladeer to barn-burning rocker. The set even ended with a special appearance from the Allman Brothers Band’s Butch Trucks on drums.

3. Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark at Grand Central, Miami. Diving back into the rigors of touring after more than a decade of inactivity, O.M.D. reminded fans of the stadium-packing hit factory it was in the 1980s, with a set list encompassing every smash single. An uncontrollable dance-fest from beginning to end – brought down to earth by the musicians’ charming, self-deprecating wit – this concert was the year’s most buoyant example of unbridled fun.

2. Swans at Respectable Street, West Palm Beach. This year fulfilled one of my dreams since college: To finally experience Swans’ thunderous live show for myself. Earplugs were a necessity for this two-hour explosion of impassioned, noisy, post-punk, post-rock, post-everything squall of sound,

leaving the hundred-plus in attendance dazed, hypnotized and beyond moved.

1. The Mountain Goats at 1982 Bar, Gainesville. My bias is unavoidable here, because the Mountain Goats happen to be my favorite band. I had to travel way out of the tri-county area for this one, but it was worth every penny in gas mileage. Divorced from any tour, and in a solo performance on a tiny stage, frontman John Darnielle performed a set full of rarities, some of which he never plays live, to a throng of devoted cult followers. The first letter in each of his song selections spelled out G-O-I-N-G T-O G-A-I-N-E-S-V-I-L-L-E, memorializing this unforgettable night.


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