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Livewire's Top 10

Here are the top 10 concerts of 2008 as seen
through Livewire's bloodshot eyes
The Raconteurs10) The Raconteurs
(Lollaplooza 2008), Grant Park, Chicago, IL Aug. 1

White, clad in tight black t-shirt and trousers along with a jet-black mop of hair and chop sideburns, looked more fit than his past couple of tours with The White Stripes, and his playful stage interplay with guitarist/vocalist Benson was extremely entertaining as the band pounding out songs from their two full-length records Broken Boy Soldiers and Consolers of the Lonely... read more
Camper Van Beethooven9) Camper Van Beethoven
(Silver Anniversary), Abbey Pub, Chicago, IL Nov. 21 & 22

Last weekend at Chicago's Abbey Pub Camper Van Beethoven performed two career-spanning shows to celebrate their 25-year union as a band. Nevermind that this self-proclaimed "surrealist absurdist folk" combo took the entire '90s off, while cofounder David Lowery teamed up with Johnny Hickman to form the successful alt-rock band Cracker. Because, as one of indie rock's first and finest, CVB deserves a cause for celebration. Not only have original bandmembers Lowery (vocals / guitar), Victor Krummenacher (bass / vocals), Jonathan Segel (violin / keys / guitar / vocals) and Greg Lisher (guitars /vocals) banded together along with the newer addition of drummer Frank Funaro (Cracker / Joey Ramone / The Dictators) for a small handful of Silver Anniversary shows in San Francisco, Chicago and NY... read more
Robert Plant8) Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL June 18

The serene surroundings of the lush Ravinia was sold out to the rafters (even every last blade of grass was covered) to catch a glimpse of the historic pairing and the duo didn't disappoint. In fact, both entertainers were downright astounding at interpreting cuts from that roots rock album, but also covering a handful of random oldies, along with completely re-arranged takes of a few Zeppelin treasures. Starting the set with the mountainous blues beats of "Rich Woman" suggested the duo's studio CD was top priority, but the charismatic Plant and more subdued but still superb Krauss quickly showcased their soulfulness via the Ray Charles cover "Leave My Woman Alone."... read more
Death Cab for Cutie7) Death Cab for Cutie
Eagles Ballroom, Milwaukee, WI Dec. 2

The Seattle based Death Cab for Cutie, who took the band name from the title of the song performed by the group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in The Beatles' 1967 film "Magical Mystery Tour," feature Ben Gibbard - (vocals, guitar, piano), Chris Walla - (guitar, piano), Nicholas Harmer - (bass) and Jason McGerr - (drums). "I Will Possess Your Heart" featured Gibbard's beautifully lunar voice while the band added a remote dissonance to the affair. On stage, Gibbard is a swaying musical sage and a beautifully fragile figure as well. Closing the evening with the haunting of "Title And Registration" and the emotionally bleak "Transatlanticism," Death Cab for Cutie proved once again that they are beholden to no one... read more
Daniel Johnston6) Daniel Johnston
Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI Feb. 7

There always seems to be something compelling found in the art of an artist precariously swaying between sanity and insanity-- Van Gogh, Syd Barrett, William Blake, Brian Wilson, etc. And singer/songwriter/musician/artist and Austin, TX personality Daniel Johnston is no different. While his mental problems have created an almost mythical past, Johnston's song writing talent is as real as can be-- it is neither absorbed in his own problems nor blind to them-- and can not be reduced to novelty... read more
Bon Iver5) Bon Iver
Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI Aug. 14

Nearing the end of a whirlwind summer tour in support of For Emma, Forever Ago, which Vernon penned whilst spending four months of wintry isolation at a cabin in northern Wisconsin, the live versions of the songs still created an almost haunting sense of wide open space and loneliness, but with a little less of the chilling cold found on the album. With a distinct warble and falsetto, Vernon's voice is the lead instrument in the majority of the tunes and most notably in "Skinny Love," in which Vernon shifts from a fragile falsetto to a throaty shout. "Flume" presented some of the most haunting and effects-laden moments of the evening while "For Emma" and "Re: Stacks" were pleasantly bare. The quartet topped the night off standing around a mic at the front of the stage and singing Nashville singer/songwriter Sarah Siskind's "Lovin's For Fools" to Vernon's acoustic guitar... read more
Shane MacGowan4) The Pogues
Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL Mar. 6

Their show last Thursday (the second of their two-night stay in The Windy City) saw the band in similar form as last year with the instrumentation from the sprawling band in top form; running through jigs, reels and rockers that had the packed floor sporadically pogoing and moshing in pandemonium. The band opened with one of their many signature songs "Streams of Whiskey" as the pasty and bloated MacGowan shuffled out clad in black top hat, shades and jacket. Whether it was from the many years of self-abuse or backstage bender right before the show, the dazed-looking singer teetered back-and-forth behind the mic delivering an almost unintelligible run of slurs, which were eventually sorted out when the band joined in for the chorus, " I am going, I am going any which way the wind might be blowing. I am going, I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing."... read more
Alejandro Escovedo3) Alejandro Escovedo
(basement tapes session #11), Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI July 2

Alejandro's latest masterpiece Real Animal, helmed by famed producer Tony Visconti, not only touches on these attributes, but also, looks back at his past with a crystalline vision and channels it into one of his most aggressive and potent albums in years. After practically grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory - after nearly succumbing to a fatal bout of Hepatitis C a few years ago - Real Animal finds Escovedo snatching that jawbone and smashing it to a pulp as he summons up many of the influences of his past, such as the raw power of Iggy & The Stooges, David Bowie at his edgiest and, more indirectly, a bit of the swaggering glam of Roxy Music and T. Rex.... read more
TV On The Radio2) TV On The Radio
Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL Oct. 22

For those who may be put-off by the pretensions and affectedness of 'art-rock,' one need only dig into the Brooklyn-based collective TV On The Radio's music to fully appreciate the wedded bliss of both art and music. While this can be done quite effectively by listening to any one of their three challenging and remarkable full-length records (2004's Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, 2006's critical breakthrough Return to Cookie Mountain and, arguably their greatest achievement thus far, the newly released Dear Science) their hypnotizing live performance in Chicago last Wednesday proved there's no better way to understand the theory behind their art form than witnessing them live... read more
Nick Cave1) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL Sept. 29

In support of the new record Cave & The Bad Seeds rolled into Chicago for two-sold out shows at The Riviera Theatre earlier this week, and after witnessing the second electrifying performance on Monday, it's apparent that age isn't about to slow this 50 year-old musician down. Although they didn't perform any songs from last year's Grinderman project, much of the intensity of their live performance was captured on newer numbers such as "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" and "Midnight Man," along with the psychedelic dirge of "Tupelo" from their 1985 effort The Firstborn Is Dead. This was largely due to the fact that since Grinderman, Cave has taken to playing electric guitar onstage (nevermind that since then he's also been cultivating a fine hedgerow of a moustache). When behind his stringed instrument he's developed not only his own style of playing but has already perfected his own signature (eat yer heart out, Keith) guitar histrionics - spine thrown back in a spastic jerk while kicking up his right leg... read more

Honorable Mentions:
1) Devotchka - Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI May 8
2) Tim Fite - Cudahy Pub at Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI July 19
3) Zappa Plays Zappa - Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI July 1
4) White Rabbits - Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI Jan. 18
5) Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI Oct. 30

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