Top 5 Live Music Moments of the Year [2007]

Best Live Moments of the Year

Fats Domino — Blueberry Hill (Tipitina’s, May 19)
I grew up in Lafayette with a series of mental sensations culled from weekend trips  to New Orleans that defined the city to me.  I remember watching  those miserable Saints teams of the late 80’s running onto the field, Gumbo leading the charge; smelling that arid mixture of spice and vomit that permeates the Quarter; listening to the marshmallow squeeze of the calliope on the River Front.  But the flash-thought that dominates my youthful conception of the city I love is watching Fats Domino hammer on his piano.  Having the opportunity to see him in May at Tipitina’s — his first show since you-know-what — was the kind of privilege that should be reserved for the hard veterans of the city, not Johnny-come-latelies like myself.  But when the chords for “Blueberry Hill” came barreling out of his left hand and he leaned back to look at his beloved fans, New Orleans clicked.  My entire perception of what it is to be from this city, to love this city, are embodied in the passionate and honest smile of Fats Domino.  Judging by the man who screamed, “I love New Orleans!” with tears in his voice the moment Fats took the stage, I don’t think I’m alone in that.  Fats only played for half-an-hour that night, and he didn’t play “Walkin’ to New Orleans,” but that was okay.   Sometimes live music is much bigger than what’s actually happening on stage.  Sometimes a true visionary can be the one voice, the one smile, for his place and time.  How lucky we are to have Fats Domino.

Bruce Springsteen — It’s So Hard to be a Saint in the City (Cleveland, OH, November 4)
It would be easy to claim that any other Springsteen show would, in itself, be the greatest moment of the year.  But in Cleveland, for whatever reason, Bruce decided to pull out “Saint in the City,” from his 1973 debut Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, for the first time since November of 2003.  The track is as rough as its title; Bruce crams more syllables into a line than the Fiery Furnaces, but he’s singing about the Devil playing dice for souls in the alleyway, the girls in their dresses looking far too pretty, and the helpless crippled homeless.  It was the last song I expected Bruce to play, and, more importantly, it’s my favorite song of all time.  And even now, thirty-five years after it was written, the song still has the same nervous vigor and quake that first made it great; Springsteen and Little Steven Van Zandt traded angular guitar lines as the rest of the E Street Band faded out, and all was right with the world.  Oh, also, if the people in the row in front of me happen to be reading this, I should probably apologize for screaming so loudly.

Wilco — Heavy Metal Drummer (Voodoo Fest, October 28)
There’s nothing like having the best band in the world propose to your girlfriend from the stage in front of 40,000 people, is there?

Grizzly Bear — Lullaby  (Chelsea’s, March 1)
Grizzly Bear were the most surprising show of the year.  Yellow House is a good record, but I think few were prepared for how well the group could not only recreate the record’s crystal harmonies but what a joyful noise the four-piece can create underneath their voices.  “Lullaby” is a slow-riser, the Bears chanting “Chin up/cheer up/chin up/cheer up” while flutes and strings and distorted guitars fight below.  Probably the most masculine feminine band out there.

Explosions in the Sky — The Only Moment We Were Alone (Republic, March 8)
It’s really not even fair to put this song on any kind of list.  EITS have perfected the art of setlist-crafting.  The entire night was moving towards this moment, the tension in every song rising steadily throughout the set.  On even an average night, Explosions in the Sky manipulate the air around them until the stage gets blurry, the clean peals of their guitars and the fury of the drums losing themselves together; the room holds its collective arms around itself.   And when the instrumental group pushed into the final movement of the set closer, fists punched air, shivers scaled spines, and no one was alone.


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