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Livewire's Top 10

Here are the top 10 concerts of 2006 as seen through Livewire's bloodshot eyes.
Andrew Bird10) Andrew Bird
Miramar Theatre, Milwaukee, WI Feb 2

Walking out to the low stage, not one foot above a seated throng of college students, Andrew sheds a long red scarf and lifts a violin to this shoulder. He begins pulling the bow, then alternately plucking the strings, looping and layering to manifest a complex web of sounds that flirt with different beats. His lanky frame sways and bobs; he kisses the mic, whispering then yelling intimate lyrics in a Tom York / Buckley voice that can only be described as his own. In "Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left," Bird playfully jerks his head, mimicking his own intelligent lyrics. Between songs, from past albums and from his latest work, he meekly jokes with the audience, drawing them on stage with him...
Sigur Ros9) Sigur Ros
Riverside Theatre, Milwaukee, WI May 10

Still making exceptional use of subtle but striking lighting effects, the sounds and images took on a life of their own that can only be produced and experienced in concert. As layers of sound began expanding behind a curtain still drawn and backlit, shadows and sounds became a window into the avant-garde with the ornate walls of the theatre framing the view. When the musicians behind the curtain were exposed, other-worldly falsettos and mood-saturated instrumentation emerged from the band as they cycled through multi-instrumental talent. In a setlist dominated by songs from the band's latest release Takk, the new songs, which are comparably more direct and lighter-hearted at times, mixed well with older material in creating a dramatic set.
Standouts included the run...
Lucinda Williams8) Lucinda Williams
Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI Mar. 7

With the emphasis on Williams' honest and rough-hewn voice her Southern Gothic tales of lost love, death, hard drinking, despair and, ultimately, hope took on even deeper meaning. Clad in denim bell-bottoms, pigeon-toed cowboy boots and shock of sandy grey hair, the singer looked as natural and welcoming as the first dandelion of Spring. The set was equally spread between her last three studio albums - 2003's World Without Tears, 2001's Essence and, arguably, her quintessential effort Car Wheels on a Gravel Road from 1998. In addition, the Louisiana-bred musician unveiled a handful of newer numbers that, compositionally, proved every bit as strong as her most beloved material...
The Decemberists7) The Decemberists
CMJ Music Marathon, New York, NY Nov. 1

The talk of the town was undoubtedly The Decemberists, who after finding fame underground scored a deal with Capitol Records. Though the Colin Meloy-led five piece had no trouble selling tickets on its own, a brand new album called The Crane Wife and major label budget helped help make the demand for the group's Hammerstein Ballroom so overwhelming that an endless line wrapped around the venue's block. Thankfully, the powers that be anticipated the rush in advance and staged an afternoon set at the Apple Store Soho, during which a few hundred die-hards were treated to several acoustic songs from the album in the upstairs theatre. The group melded folk, pop, prog...
Cursive6) Cursive
Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI Sept. 24

"Art Is Hard" exploded with some boisterous rhythm guitars layered just under Kasher's intense lyrics ("Cut it out- your self-inflicted pain / is getting too routine / the crowds are catching on / to the self-inflicted song") fell heavily on the intense following in the house that night. The only thing that was lacking is that the cello was underplayed and essentially got lost throughout most of the song. "Sierra" was rife with a bleak beauty about a very personal upheavel in Kasher's life when his wife and daughter left him. The pounding drums and cascading guitars played havoc with the crescendos...
MCR5) My Chemical Romance
Riverside Theatre, Milwaukee, WI Dec. 13

The show started off with "The End," "Dead!" and and the heavy handed guitar laced "This Is How I Disappear" (which are also the three songs that open Welcome to the Black Parade). MCR's chaotic rhythms and joyous celebrations of death and dying melded into a fantastic foray into the intelligent and dark side of rock n' roll. Gerard Way is turning into a rock chameleon with his black suit and pants cut off just below the knees and large combat boots and strikingly bold blonde hair. His stage theatrics are quite entertaining as he poetically preens and poses during the delicious guitar solos. The pop hooks ran rampant on "I'm Not OK (I Promise)" and "Cemetery Drive." The searing guitar of Ray Toro exploded on numbers like "Welcome to The Black Parade" and "Thank You for the Venom." Closing their maddeningly...
The Flaming Lips4) The Flaming Lips
Hedgpeth Music Festival, Twin Lakes, WI July 28

Amos, the soprano, marked the highs in her vocal range that very few artists are able to Wayne Coyne and the Lips delivered the ecstasy in a big way on Friday night ... complete with dancing Santas and Martian babes (pulled from the crowd), superheroes, streamers, boatloads of confetti, flying glow sticks, balls, video craziness, giant hands, megaphones, a sing-along cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and of course ... "the spaceball" ... a giant bubble/hamster ball that the singer perambulates around in. For those who have never experienced a Flaming Lips concert, words fail to describe the event. A near religious experience: part circus, part pagan ritual, part vaudeville, part high-church, part trippy '60s love-fest, but always slightly tongue-in-cheek, a Lips show nearly drowns the viewer in a flood of color and sensation from...
Muse3) Muse
Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL July 27

As a front man, he shined throughout the whole set, mirroring a similar charisma to Thom Yorke, though not nearly as spastic (especially on the reflective acoustic ballad "Soldier's Poem"). However his range and hyperactivity was certainly rivaled on the emotional Absolution alums "Hysteria" and "Stockholm Syndrome," which continued unveiling the group's grandiose desires and far reaching soundscapes. Additional diversity was displayed throughout the epic "Knights of Cydonia," which demonstrated one of Muse's most progressive rock inspired displays that conjured up rhythmic images of Rush from back in the day.
In constantly keeping the audience guessing, yet pleasing them at the same time by amply alternating between current cuts and older nuggets...
Radiohead2) Radiohead
Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL June 20

The last two times Radiohead played in the Midwest the venues were sprawling, outdoor events that attracted tens of thousands (2001 at Chicago's Hutchinson Field on the city's lake front and at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI back in 2003). But when the Oxford, England quintet took to the stage last Monday and Tuesday at Chicago's beautifully ornate Auditorium Theater it marked a much more intimate affair for their fans.
On the second of their two sold-out Chicago shows the band emerged for a twenty-two song set that incorporated material from their entire back catalogue - save for their 1993 debut Pablo Honey. With a set-list that changes dramatically from night to night, Tuesday evening's performance equally showcased their more experimental material from Kid A (the ghostly beauty of "How To Disappear Completely," the cacophonic, well-orchestrated jazz-noise of "The National Anthem," along with the drastically reworked title-track) with material from both their more guitar-driven Brit-pop album The Bends and groundbreaking effort OK Computer...
Gnarls Barkley1) Lollapalooza
Grant Park, Chicago, IL Aug. 4 - 6

With the truly greatest indie and mainstream lineup of any fest anywhere on the planet - the whole three day Lollapalooza Fest had to be chosen as #1 because of some stand-out performances from such diverse artists as Death Cab for Cutie, The Raconteurs, Broken Social Scene, Kill Hannah, Wilco, 30 Seconds to Mars, Wolfmother, Gnarls Barkley and so many more that made this jewel in Chicago remind us why we love music so much!

Honorable Mentions:
1) Morrissey - SxSW, Austin, TX Mar.17
2) Tool - Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL Sept.18
3) Kill Hannah - Metro, Chicago, IL Dec. 22
4) Jeff Tweedy - Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI Oct. 30
5) M.Ward - Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI Sept. 7

Top 10

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