Listomania: The 15 Best Concerts of 2010

With apologies to Robert Earl Keen, Devin the Dude, Cake, Hayes Carll and the multitude of also-rans filling up the regional concert calendar in these final weeks of 2010, it's safe to say, I think, that, with Friday night's Wu-Tang show at the Granada Theater, the year in live music effectively wrapped itself up this weekend -- at least so far as we're concerned. And, given our list-obsessed state of minds at the moment, that's good news: Now we can finally get around to looking back at the year that was in area concerts.

Looking back, it was an incredibly busy year, thanks in some part to the festivalization of North Texas. No, there's still nothing in the area that can compete with SXSW or ACL or even Fun Fun Fun Fest, all of which were huge successes down in Austin this year. But between NX35's glorious run back in the spring (hello, Flaming Lips!), the inaugural Homegrown Festival in Downtown Dallas and, sure enough, our biggest Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase yet, things on the multiple-stage-show front were suddenly not so bad around here.

Neither was the region's booking. Past years have found Dallasites griping about the lack of anticipated national tours stopping through the area. Is that much still even a viable complaint? Dallas got the Guided by Voices "classic lineup" reunion tour kickoff, the Clash of the Titans tour reunion kickoff, the most recent run from The Pixies, Wu-Tang and countless other showcases. Did we really miss much else? Not as far as we can recall. Pretty much every tour worth its weight came through the region -- and, if it didn't make it here the first time through, more often than not, those bands just came back later.

Given that sheer volume, looking back on the year in concerts is something of a herculean task. As a unit, we here at DC9 reviewed somewhere in the vicinity of just over 200 shows in 2010. Personally, I'd say I attended somewhere in the region of 150-plus (or more) shows of varying sizes over the course of that same stretch -- while still managing to somehow miss greatness like Neil Young at the Meyerson, either of Mumford & Sons' two stops through town, Levon Helm and Ray LaMontagne at the Verizon Theatre and, I'm sure, many other worthwhile efforts.

But, fact remains, I still did see plenty of shows. And, thusly, I present my subjective list of 2010's best concerts in the region, in order, after the jump. Here's hoping you made it out to a couple of them.

Andrew Shepherd
Passion Pit at the Palladium Ballroom
15. Passion Pit at the Palladium Ballroom
Passion Pit had a bigger 2009 than 2010, for all intents and purposes. But while 2010 served largely as a victory lap for the synth-obsessed Boston-based outfit, it also saw the band playing its biggest showcases yet -- and with its most well-coiffed shows, too.
Excerpt from review: "Infectious and dance-y and proven to be a more marketable commodity than the hype factory the band appeared in its first stop in Dallas, the band's live performance of its Manners- and Chunk of Change-filled set was spot on with their studio recordings."

Pleasant Grove perform Auscultation of the Heart in entirety at the Kessler Theater
Why: Aside from the obvious points -- that Pleasant Grove is one of Dallas' great bands and that this show was jam-packed with adoring fans -- this show didn't necessarily feel like the reunion show it was billed as. More than anything, it felt like a coming out party for the beautiful Kessler Theater, which is quickly becoming one of the best, if not the flat-out top, listening rooms in the region.
Excerpt from review: "It was a performance that harkened back to the band's celebratory 'last' performance, a couple years back, at Sons of Hermann Hall. They were crisp, clean, and, most important for a band with such a delicate sound, singular."

13. Crystal Castles at the House of Blues
Why: Dallas area Crystal Castles fans had been waiting for this show for some time -- the band somewhat famously canceled its Granada Theater gig last year at the last minute -- and received a show this year that more than made up for past errors. Whether Ethan Kath and Alice Glass were intentionally upping their games at this show or not, their final  stop on their U.S. tour proved itself an epic display.
Excerpt from review: "It was but a quick moment of silence; half a second later, the stage was flooded with green lights and Crystal Castles burst into its set. By the band's second song, 'Baptism,' the eclectic, all-ages HOB crowd was going nuts."

12. The Octopus Project's Hexadecagon at the South Side Music Hall
It's tough to beat this show on sheer spectacle alone. With eight-channel speakers blasting the sound out in 360 degrees from the band's in-the-round performance spot, which existed under a canopy of visuals, this show was sensory overload -- and not just an example of style over substance.
Excerpt from review: "These folks were voted by ticket purchasers to be the opening act at Coachella a few years ago. But the music of the new album and its presentation last night pushed the envelope into a whole new realm."

11. Sarah Jaffe at the Granada Theater
This September show felt like a coming out party for Jaffe -- much bigger than her CD release show back in May, which drew Jaffe about a quarter of the crowd size she drew to this sold-out affair. And, between the debut of her "Clementine" music video and her sparse, encore cover of Radiohead's "Creep," Jaffe made sure her fans left feeling as if they'd seen something special. Which, of course, they had.
Excerpt from review: "There still remain a sign or two of her youth and inexperience -- like when, just a few songs in to her headlining slot at the Granada Theater on Saturday night, Sarah Jaffe excused herself from the audience so that she could go grab a guitar strap she'd left backstage. But those were but minor quibbles. Because, as she's been doing all year, the 24-year-old Jaffe continued to prove herself quite the pro on Saturday night. "

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