« All Features

Best Live Sets of 2011

By ; December 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM 


Kanye West, April 17, 2011, Empire Polo Grounds – Indio, CA


Photo by Christopher Alvarez

“This is the most important show to me, since my Mom passed. There’s many times I’ve thought about not being here. And you all make it all worth it.” In this rare glimpse of Kanye being vulnerable and humble in public, Coachella marked an important milestone in Kanye’s life. This was the light at the end of a long tunnel – one that consisted of his mother’s tragic death in 2007, the Swift debacle in 2009, and the grueling recording process of his masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. If there ever was a time that Kanye truly earned a moment, it was this performance. It served both as a triumphant celebration for what he survived, and a reminder of the greatness of his career. West’s Coachella performance is already being lauded by longtime Coachella-goers as one of the best headlining performances in the festival’s history, while simultaneously getting backlash for being overblown hot air. But regardless of how you feel about Kanye, his Coachella performance was both a thing of great passion and showmanship. Playing hits from his College Dropout Days all the way through to his prog-influenced 2010 album, the performance succeeded in reminding us that his egomaniacal personality is backed up by music that he puts his entire self into.

Brent Koepp


Low, September 20, 2011, El Rey Theater – Los Angeles, CA


Photo by Philip Cosores

Low released their ninth album, C’mon this year, to more or less of a “meh” from most people. However, after nearly twenty years of releasing consistently great albums Low have reached the status of cult heroes. So, while current indie favourites like Bon Iver played a venue multiple times the size across town, Low delighted those hard core fans in a half-filled El Rey with a set of material that touched upon almost everything in their discography including new songs, old favourites and even b-sides. Alan Sparhawk, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the venue was only half full (or, more likely, just not that bothered) talked to the crowd, took requests and played his fucking heart out. While it would probably mean playing their whole discography to have made sure that every single person leaves 100% happy, I’m sure nobody on this occasion can have had any complaints.

Rob Hakimian

Read the original coverage here.


Nas, August 20, 2011, San Manuel Amphitheater – San Bernardino, CA


Photo by Philip Cosores

For this year’s Rock The Bells series, Nas decided to perform his classic debut album Illmatic in full. Although the album is nearly twenty years old, it still sounds fresh today, and although it is a quintessentially New York album, Los Angeles has one of the most hip-hop appreciating demographics, so this was always going to be a fantastic show. Set amongst a back drop of a stage made to look like the Queensbridge Projects, Nas rewound time to spit as freely and fluidly as ever, inviting guests like AZ onstage and being backed throughout by two of Illmatic’s producers, the inimitable DJ Premier and Pete Rock, though the crowd had eyes for nobody but Nas. They bobbed and rapped along, filling in lines like “sleep is the cousin of death” and singing along wholeheartedly to the choruses of “The World is Yours” and “Represent.” After the completion of Illmatic, Nas showed where he’s been since, touching on some other hits of his like “One Mic” and “Get Down,” both of which showcase the more complex and world-weary side of his style that he’s come to adopt in the years since his debut. While these are unarguably fantastic songs, it was those from the debut that made this performance special, giving us a glimpse into the past to see the songs that were the genesis of one of hip-hop’s brightest stars that came after the initial wave. It was a great trip down memory lane for several in attendance, while for more recent converts it was a chance to gain perspective. However, most of all, it was most satisfying to know that Nas has not forgotten his roots, that he can still rap as well now as he could then, and that hopefully this passion will be going into his next album Life Is Good.

Rob Hakimian

Read the original coverage here.


The National, September 11, 2011, Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles, CA


Photo by Philip Cosores

On the ten-year anniversary of September 11th, there was something ominous in the air, tangible in the half-mast flags on both sides of the Hollywood Bowl stage. And, as KCRW’s Jason Bentley put it before the show, nothing could feel more cathartic than to gather on that day and share some music as personal, emotional, and, well, “New York” as The National. And, probably not so much to mark the occasion as just because The National bring it on every night, the band rose to the huge crowd by performing a well-paced, beautifully lit, and great-sounding set. But, it was the special moments that stood out. Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), who was in town doing some promotional tasks for her own recent album, showed up to play multiple songs with The National, notably a stunning duet with Matt Berninger on High Violet’s “Sorrow.” Sharon Van Etten also joined The National, helping with a moving version of their collaborative track, “Think You Can Wait.”

The National showed no signs of the more-than-a-year they’ve spent touring High Violet; still fierce and eager to prove themselves. And, anyone who has seen Berninger run into the audience for “Terrible Love” would still be impressed by the ground he covered at the Bowl, finding a place between wrestling and embracing with the crowd – an action that is fitting for as multi-faceted and nuanced as The National’s music is.

Philip Cosores

Read the original coverage here.


No Flag, July 21, 2011, MacArthur Park – Los Angeles, CA

A free show with No Age and Ceremony in a rough Los Angeles locale more known as a place to score drugs than to see music? Yeah, the show would have been awesome regardless of how it concluded, but FYF had another idea for how best to cap the evening. At the conclusion of No Age’s set, OFF! and former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris appeared from nowhere to tape down a new setlist on the ground. Along with other original Black Flag member Chuck Dukowski and the two dudes from No Age, a one-time-only collaboration took place, called No Flag, playing six brief and intense Black Flag tunes. The place went absolutely berserk. Like, the kind of berserk where you fear for your own safety, as teenagers began stage diving rapidly, with abandon and little regard besides having some quick, cheap fun. It was the kind of berserk that saw a dude in a wheelchair crowd-surf. It was the kind of berserk that you can visibly notice the park representatives threatening to shut down the show, with Keith Morris pleading with them that everything was under control. Hell, this was a punk show. Everyone knew what they were getting into when they came. This was what was supposed to happen.

Somehow, the set played until its natural conclusion and FYF Fest organizers handed out free posters to commemorate the moment. People who didn’t go to this free show are probably still kicking themselves, and those of us who did make it can testify that it was really fucking awesome.

Philip Cosores

Read the original coverage here.


Odd Future, May 1, 2011, Camden Crawl – London, UK


Photo by Rob Hakimian

Odd Future made their first venture to Europe in Spring this year, and it couldn’t have been at a more opportune moment. The word of mouth surrounding the group had been building for months; the video for Tyler, the Creator’s “Yonkers” was being spread on social networks like wildfire, it was only a couple of weeks before Goblin was due to drop, the phrases “swag” and “golf wang” hadn’t become grating, and there was still a certain air of mystery around the collective. While the whole UK tour was mayhem, their performance at Camden Crawl in London was where it came to a head. Although the festival was ticketed, this performance took place on a blocked off public street in the middle of Camden and was free to anyone who wandered past. The street packed out ages before they were due to take the stage and the chants were out in full force. The performance itself was insane; although for this venture Odd Future had been cut to its bare basic members (Tyler, Hodgy, LeftBrain and Syd) the rage and passion were not lacking. The gap between the stage and the audience was huge, something that they were not happy about, and throughout the whole show they encouraged the audience to push past the barrier and flood the photo pit, but before this could happen swathes of additional security were brought in to secure the area, which led to Tyler and co barraging them with abuse for the remainder of the show. All of this fused together to create a pumped up show, with the crowd shouting along to every line they knew, and Hodgy Beats leaping what seemed like an impossible distance from the top of the speaker stack and into the crowd (and not getting caught, which he wasn’t happy about). Finally at the end the crowd were pumped up enough to flood the photo pit and climb the stage, causing a mini riot. It was an impressive feat for a group of kids thousands of miles away from home, and one they’ve more or less pulled off on a nightly basis since.

Rob Hakimian

Read the original coverage here.


Pearl Jam, September 4, 2011, Alpine Valley Music Theatre – East Troy, WI


Jenny Wojcicki

In the hands of lesser bands – lesser showmen – an event like the PJ20 Destination Weekend could easily lose the plot. With a guest list including (though not limited to) The Strokes, Mudhoney, Queens Of The Stone Age, John Doe, and Glen Hansard, keeping the focus on the headliner is no small accomplishment. Yet, it’s not the least bit surprising that Pearl Jam pulled it off. Nearly every artist shared the stage for a song or two with members from Pearl Jam, and when it came time for Pearl Jam’s own set, those artists returned the favor.

But what made PJ20 so special, so memorable, is how it turned the page on Pearl Jam’s career. While most of the huge acts of yesteryear would approach such a celebration as a mere requirement, Pearl Jam treats it as an opportunity to beautifully complete the transition from contemporary music makers to nostalgia act. Performing for over three hours in the September evening chill, Pearl Jam played from not only every crevice of their catalog (b-sides non-exempted), but also the music that shaped them. During a Temple Of The Dog set, surprise guest Chris Cornell joined the boys onstage to more fully bring the 20 year old music back to life. As demonstrated at PJ20, Pearl Jam’s live show is still all about energy: Mike McCready and Stone Gossard are always playing off each other, Jeff Ament is in constant motion, and Eddie seems to be mere moments away from launching into the crowd. That’s not to dismiss Matt Cameron, who has quietly become not only the group’s longest tenured drummer, but also its best. Despite a capacity crowd at Alpine Valley, Pearl Jam’s performance felt intimate. Part of that is the band’s attitude; part of that is how Pearl Jam fans coalesce into a single entity. As usual, Eddie put it best, “We feel like we could play anything and you fuckers would know.”

Jason Hirschhorn

Read the original coverage here.


Rage Against The Machine, July 30, 2011, L.A. Coliseum – Los Angeles, CA


Photo by Philip Cosores

These days the political rock behemoth that is Rage Against The Machine play sporadically and rarely. However, the opportunity to play the Memorial Coliseum in their hometown of Los Angeles at the height of summer must have been one that they couldn’t turn down. With rumours spreading before the show that this may be their last ever performance together, it was sure to be one that was not to be missed, and this was enforced brutally time and time again by Rage as they played a set that seemed to be packed with more hits than you ever remembered them having. From front to back, the entire floor of the stadium was packed with pumped up kids scrapping, dancing and head-banging along to the riffs of Tom Morello and screaming along in unison to the rasping growls of Zach De La Rocha. Fires were set and I’m sure multiple bones were broken. From my elevated position I could see the entire audience each time the lights went up, and they seemed to me less like a collection of human beings and more like a group of maggots in a bowl, with no purpose or desire other than to just move and be alive. And Rage provided the perfect soundtrack for this. If it’s the last time it will be a shame, but at least they ended it at the right place.

Rob Hakimian

Read the original coverage here.


WU LYF, July 26, 2011, The Echo – Los Angeles, CA


Photo by Philip Cosores

After seeing WU LYF at the Echo in July, as part of their first American trek, a two-stop tour, I said that it was the show of the year. I stand by this claim.

Out of everything that stood out to me about this show – which crowded the few hundred capacity club with a dozen photographers and who-knows-how-many more record company representatives – most notable was how the show turned 20-minutes into it. During “Spitting Blood,” the respectful but calm audience awakened, revealing a remarkable amount of people knowing the song’s words and ready to shout them back at the band, as is typical at a hardcore show. The songs of WU LYF have the ability to expand and burst by their conclusion, and the show followed suit, building energy with each song with audience members crowd surfing, pushing, and getting generally crazy, but in the most fun and awesome of ways. The crew of photographers, usually not ones to enjoy this kind of rowdiness, followed suit, getting swept up in the madness and letting go of their professional responsibilities. By the time the band worked in their two best songs, “Heavy Pop” and “We Bros,” the show had built to a near religious experience, with the band noticeably amused and triumphant, having quickly conquered Los Angeles in a way that takes many other bands years to do.

Philip Cosores

Read the original coverage here.

[Page 1] [Page 2]


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow Us

Latest News and Media
Features More

Facebook icon_twitter Follow


Twitter icon_twitter Follow

Banquet Media

Blogroll