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Livewire's Top 10

Here are the top 10 concerts of 2009 as seen
through Livewire's bloodshot eyes
Green Day10) Green Day
United Center, Chicago, IL, July 13

After opening with the pair of new cuts "21st Century Breakdown" and "Know Your Enemy," Billie Joe Armstrong and company cranked out a career spanning set that was just as insurgent as it was entertaining. While channeling the teenage awkwardness of "Before the Lobotomy" and the angst of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," towering lighting rigs swirled vibrant colors as giant screens projected members' ferocious playing abilities alongside random footage that mirrored the mayhem (not to mention bursts of intermittent pyro and flames)... read more
M. Ward9) M. Ward
Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI, April 24

The recondite M. Ward emerged in chiaroscuro fashion to paint Milwaukee with his morose. With identity concealed in darkness, Ward allowed his music to take the forefront, and what a commanding presence it captured. The finger-picking phenom really started to showcase his talents when he took control of the stage for a couple of impressive solo takes, starting with "I'll Be Yr Bird" from Transistor Radio, before rollin' and tumblin' into the evenings highlight. Ward - alone on stage - explored the fullness of sound generated from the sole instrument heard - his guitar. It was nothing short of mind blowing! His vocal styling is soft, with full-throated tenderness behind his rasp, which helps to add much needed warmth to his overall caliginous vibe in subject matter - together providing a nicely woven contradiction... read more
Wilco8) Wilco
Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI, April 15

Wilco hit the stage with the subdued "Hell Is Chrome" from the A Ghost Is Born LP and continued the mellow mood for most of the first half of the show. Guitarist Nels Cline added his avant frenetic leads to many of the songs, drawing hoots and shout outs from the adoring crowd. During a lighter moment, Nels strutted the fashion catwalk after one audience member remarked on his tomato red high-water slacks. This sketch allowed for terminally somber Tweedy to show off his lighter side and comment that his jean jacket, (circa 1995) still smelled like ketchup, mulch and old band-aids. Along with Cline, the other musician that cannot be denied is Drummer Glen Kotche. One of the only true percussionists in rock music, he plays the drums like a painter flourishing brushes at a canvas. Original Wilco bassist John Stirrat tethers the group down with solid bass lines and often overlooked harmony vocals... read more
Ryan Adams and The Cardinals7) Ryan Adams and The Cardinals
The War Memorial, Nashville, TN, Mar. 15

In between popular songs such as "Fix It" and "Two," Ryan Adams showed his more humorous side, joking with members of the audience. As he started to play a familiar chord the crowd erupted into applause and cheers, forcing Adams to stop and comment, "that could have been anything, why are you fucking clapping?" He also took time to single out a man in the audience that had the same shirt on as Casal, even providing an impromptu song about the coincidence. The humor continued with the "evening joke with Jon Graboff." That evening's was "I don't drink anymore" "Oh, really?" "Well, I don't drink any less..." read more
Madeleine Peyroux6) Madeleine Peyroux
Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI, Mar. 18

Madeleine Peyroux is a flask of warm whiskey in a cold ditch. She's shockingly familiar upon first listen, awkward and warbled in vocal intonations, yet pleasantly comforting to the one receiving them. She's often been compared to the likes of Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Patsy Cline. She's made an early career signing standards, and reminiscent to that of the late Ray Charles, Madeleine has the uncanny ability to lay claim to any song simply by her recording it. Can anyone argue that "Song For You" even though penned and originally recorded by Leon Russell, and further recorded by Willie Nelson, isn't a Ray Charles tune? Is anyone going to further argue that Madeleine doesn't now own the Leonard Cohen tune "Dance Me to the End of Love," or Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" for that matter?... read more
These United States5) These United States
Club Garibaldi's, Milwaukee, WI, Aug. 18

Last Tuesday the DC-based indie rock collective These United States made their first appearance in Milwaukee at Club Garibaldi's (a cozy unpretentious corner bar in the Bay View area that has been booking some remarkable up-and-coming bands), and while they may call Capital City home, the blood of The South managed to bubble and spew from their intense and rewarding set. Make no mistake, though, this is no Southern rock band (even if drummer Robby Cosenza and guitarist Justin Craig - both of The Apparitions and The Scourge of The Sea - hail from Lexington, KY), but rather a group that incorporates the spirit of The South, as if The Band were hosting a backyard barbeque at Big Pink... read more
Yeah Yeah Yeahs4) Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Rave, Milwaukee, WI, May 31

The short "Honeybear" found it's infectious elctro-punk leave you with a mouth-watering desire for more. The anthemic "Gold Lion" had the lanky Karen O posing like Joey Ramone, with one knee bent and her body forward while keeping the other leg firmly planted on solid ground. The bleeding distortion an Karen O's siren like shrieks oozed straight from the punk infested streets of New York City circa 1976. The front rows crushed closer to her - just inches away from her potential grasp... read more
The Decemberists3) The Decemberists
(Lollapalooza) Grant Park, Chicago, IL, Aug. 7

While The Decemberists eschewed their most familiar material and hits in favor of performing their latest album The Hazards of Love in its entirety, it paid off in a big way. For many fans who may not have been enamored at first by the album, they were certainly entranced by the tight musicianship (augmented by the incomparable Shara Worden - aka My Brightest Diamond - on guitar, keys and vocals), clean and tasteful stage décor, and epic songs laced with fanciful 1970s prog-rock flourishes and heavy metal thunder... read more
The Jesus Lizard2) The Jesus Lizard
(Pitchfork Music Festival), Union Park, Chicago, IL, July 17

It was a welcome hometown return for the band and turned out to be one of the most anticipated and rewarding shows of the three-day festival. With long thinning strands of hair, Yow plunged himself back into the masses a couple more times through their set and instead of breaking a hip (like most his age would've), the 48 year-old cracked countless devilish smiles as if he wondered how he could have ever left the band in the first place. Delivering fan favorites from their seminal early '90s albums Goat, Liar and Down (all on Chicago's Touch and Go record label), a healthy number of the more than 12,000 in attendance barked along in loving approval with Yow's guttural moans and strange tongues... read more
Antony and the Johnsons1) Antony and the Johnsons
Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI, Feb. 13

Antony Hegarty's harrowing and beautiful voice speaks of tales that only a twisted angel could have endured. His vibrato is alien at first, but his warblings lure you in - deeper than you might want to go. His weary heart speaks of the dark complexities of the human soul (albeit his soul) in a stark language filled with lyrical beauty and with childlike innocence that's jaded - but not lost. He bares witness to a fatalist acceptance of the travails that afflict the fragile human spirit. There is an underbelly of optimism even in his darkest hour. With lyrics drenched in bleak catharsis' that travel through the shadows of dark personal alleyways, Antony's world of post-cabaret is populated with a cast of gorgeously strange themes and emotions... read more

Honorable Mentions:
1) Pixies - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL, November 19
2) The Swell Season - Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL, December 3
3) Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt - Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI, Feb. 17
4) Cage The Elephant - (basement tapes session #18) Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI, July 7
5) Metallica - Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL. Jan. 26

Top 10

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