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Rockin' Chicago's Stages: Our Favorite Concert Moments Of 2011

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 21, 2011 7:15PM

It was a good year for live music in Chicago so we asked a couple members of our music writing team to pipe in with their personal favorite moments.

Michelle Meywes
The sky opening up during Lolla as the Foo Fighters played “My Hero” was an epic moment. Man, I just got goosebumps watching the video again.

Tim Harrington was all over the place (per usual) during Les Savy Fav’s Green Music Festival set, climbing on top of tents, crowd surfing in a lawn chair…but by far my favorite moment of that set was our very own Tankboy taking the mic as Harrington climbed into a second floor Wicker Park apartment.

Also, the fireworks show that accompanied Paul McCartney during “Live and Let Die” at Wrigley. There was so much fire I could feel the heat on my face. I’m pretty sure my jaw hung open for the entire song.

Eric Hehr
Definitely agree with Michelle on The Foo Fighters set at Lollapalooza. I'll never forget Dave Grohl taunting the sky as it started down pouring. So much respect for those dudes as musicians to not only play underneath those circumstances, but also kill it. Best Coast cut their set early that day because of the weather, and Foo Fighters could have very easily done the same.

Another addition is the recent Wilco Metro gig opening with "Sunken Treasure." I'm sure there's numerous great moments from any of their shows last week, but that one sticks out specifically to me. Classic Chicago band killing it at a classic Chicago venue - the dynamic shifts in the instrumental break was classic live Wilco.

Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field earlier this year also is worth a mention, as well as Black Keys short residency at Metro. One of the loudest shows I've ever been to.

Michele Lenni
I'm going to say the Fleet Foxes at Pitchfork. After another sweltering day in the heat I was expecting the Fleet Foxes to lull me to sleep with their laid-back brand of folk-rock. Quite the contrary, though they didn't have the same in-your-face rhythms that made LCD so earth-shattering in 2010, their near-perfect set of gorgeous Buffalo Springfield inspired tunes completely had me and the rest of the audience hanging on every single note. Sensuous harmonies wafting gently through the summer breeze that overtook the fest grounds at dusk had audience members gazing upon the stage with a sense of pure wonderment and awe. This is the kind of show you leave bearing that ever-so-wonderful shit-eating grin from the beautiful songs that drifted into your psyche.

Samantha Abernethy
Remember that dancing guy in the crowd at Cut Copy at Pitchfork? (He’s below at the very beginning and the very end of the video.)

When I saw Paul Simon last month he sang "Only Living Boy in New York," one of the few Simon & Garfunkel era songs he performed and I hadn't even thought to hope to hear it. That was the first time I saw him perform, and he was just as small as I'd expected — 5'3". He wore skinny jeans that he surely bought from the boys' department and a cardigan that would make Mr. Rogers jealous. He broke my heart again later in the show when he sang "Here Comes the Sun" and dedicated it to George Harrison.

Chuck Sudo
I would add The Twilight Singers at Metro to the mix. Greg Dulli's never been an amazing singer but he works well within his increasingly limited limitations, and he remains one of the best songwriters to come out of the so-called "Alternative" era. At this point The Twilight Singers have been around as long as The Afghan Whigs, and Dulli's main themes of lust, danger, and searching for love at last call remain universal. The crowd at this show was hanging on every note.

Justin Townes Earle at Metro. Not the best place to hear Earle, (That would be Lincoln Hall, where the acoustics are more forgiving.) But Earle's deprecating stage banter, which draws liberally from his much-publicized substance and behavioral issues, make an instant connection with the audience regardless of the venue. Earle's become one of his generation's best songwriters - probably the best - in a few short years and, with Chicago still a loyal fan base for his father Steve, JTE is quickly developing a multi-generational fan base.

Alex Hough
My favorite concert of the year was the Steve Reich 75th birthday celebration put on by eighth blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, and others in Millennium Park in August that included the epic Music for 18 Musicians and the chilling, rarely performed early tape pieces. I love seeing anything in Millennium Park - sometimes I'll even take a bottle of wine down there and watch the free Saturday yoga - but this was the perfect program for the venue. Reich's music is textural rather than narrative, a characteristic that was heightened by sound engineer Ryan Ingebritsen's work arranging the pieces for the Pritzker Pavilion's surround sound. Lying on the grassy oasis and letting the immersive waves of sound wash over, it was the perfect Chicago summer night.

My favorite single moment, though, was at Amy LaVere's show earlier that month at Schuba's. LaVere was supporting her latest album, Stranger Me, an hour's worth of break-up songs: some powerful and angry, some sad and regretful. LaVere is gorgeous, and her strong, perfectly pitched, sultry voice made me weak in the knees. She wore a mask for the first few songs, which was sexy for some reason, although if she had had on a clown nose, that probably would've made my heart flutter, too. About 40 minutes into this assault on my hormones, LaVere batted her eyelashes, raised her tumbler, and said, "I'm empty." She had barely finished the manipulative plea when some Johnny-Numbnuts-on-the-spot shouted, "I'll get you another!" and bounded towards the stage to fetch her glass. "Whiskey, neat," was all she said - of course she drinks straight whiskey - and the guy scampered away. Everyone in the audience felt like she was singing directly to us; the difference was that the rest of us tacitly understood it was an act. With the stark reality of that single sublime act of desperation, he razed the suspension of disbelief of every straight man, lesbian, and bi-curious woman in the room. Anyhow, LaVere continued playing, and I threw my underwear at the stage - the proper way to fete a musician.

Lizz Kannenberg
I think my favorites were Typhoon's singalong at Subterranean this summer and Cut Copy's dance party at Pitchfork. We had a sky opening moment during one of the Wilco sets at their Solid Sound festival this summer, but that was in Massachusetts so not sure if it counts.

The Metro housed two of my favorites with amazing, truly unique and transcendent sets from The Foo Fighters and The Rapture.

While 2011 might have been the year that I felt there was a dearth in promising recorded music, I fell back in love with discovering smaller, newer bands at live shows. My jaw dropped at the amazing set The Stepkids turned in last fall and I discovered how incredibly powerful and exciting the relatively new transplants The Noise FM are. And finally seeing Apteka live at the beginning of the year I realized that while their EPs and singles were great they were truly a physical fore to be reckoned with onstage.

Then there was McCartney at Wrigley, Cut Copy at P4K, the week of Peter Bjorn & John shows and, yes, the amazing Foo Fighters Lollapalooza set with thousand of people punching the sky to “My Hero” was enough to make anyone’s soul tingle.

And being able to walk away saying I “sang” with Les Savvy Fav when Harrington handed me his mic while he ran around a two-flat mid-set in Wicker Park was pretty cool too.

Man, it was a good year for live music, huh?