Though tired of the relentless assault of best-of lists, I guess I can’t help but jump on the bandwagon. The last decade was big for me personally—marriage, a family, multiple interstate moves—but this list isn’t about that. Instead, for posterity’s sake, here’s a list of some of the best things I witnessed from the audience over the last decade. These are listed in chronological order, with mostly a single item per year. Some years had much more competition that others, but each year’s pick was formidable in its own way.
2010: Dave Matthews Band at The Gorge Ampitheatre (George, WA) on 09.04.10
— One of the best DMB shows I’ve attended. The band was on fire and several of my all-time favorites were played: “#41,” “Fool to Think,” “So Right,” “The Stone,” and “Two Step.” I may have celebrated too heartily afterward.
2011: Smashing Pumpkins at Riviera Theater (Chicago, IL) on 10.14.11 | Keith Jarrett Trio @ Orchestra Hall (Chicago, IL) on 10.21.11
— These back-to-back treks to Chicago were well worth it. One of the better SP shows I’ve attended (“For Martha” to close the main set!), plus it’s always nice to see Billy Corgan in Chicago, where it all began. Having his family in the audience made Billy a little extra chatty. As for Jarrett, it was the last time I saw him in concert. I’ve seen him four times (twice solo and twice with the trio), all in Chicago, and this was the better of the two trio shows I attended. It hurts that the trio has since disbanded after so many years of great music-making.
*Honorable Mention: Bon Iver at UIC Pavilion (Chicago, IL) on 12.11.11
2012: Einstein on the Beach at the Power Center (Ann Arbor, MI) on 01.22.12
— A once-in-a-generation production and tour. I’m still grateful I was able to attend this. Nearly a decade later, I still think of this performance often.
*Honorable Mention 1: Charles Lloyd‘s New Quartet at Michigan Theater (Ann Arbor, MI) on 04.14.12 (that version of “Go Down Moses” haunts me still…)
*Honorable Mention 2: James Carter Organ Trio, Spectrum Road, and Neneh Cherry with The Thing at Montreux Jazz Festival (Montreux Switzerland) on 07.07.12
2013: Rienzi at Oberfrankenhalle (Bayreuth, Germany) on 07.07.13
— A uniquely odd but wonderful performance and setting for Wagner’s bicentennial celebration.
*Honorable Mention: Dave Liebman residency at Detroit Jazz Festival (Detroit, MI), Labor Day Weekend 2013
2014: Tord Gustavsen Quartet at Constellation (Chicago, IL) on 02.22.14
— A moving, intimate performance, and afterward I got to hang for a bit with the one and only Tore Brunborg, one of my favorite saxophonists.
2015: Dave Liebman’s Expansions at Kerrytown Concert House (Ann Arbor, MI) on 10.13.15
— Lieb always delivers, and seeing his new regular band was no exception.
2016: River of Fundament at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Cleveland, OH) on 01.30.16
— Need I say more? Arguably the top “performance” of the decade for me, even though it’s a film.
*Honorable Mention: Der fliegende Holländer at Bayern Staatsoper (Munich, Germany) on 07.22.16
— This was my second time seeing this engaging production by Peter Konwitschny in Munich. Even though the end was changed at the last minute due to exigent circumstances (the onstage explosion was pulled due to the chaos ensuing from that evening’s nearby shooting), I got much more out of the production than the first time through. Dr. Mark Berry wrote a lovely review here. (After the opera, my students and I spent the night camped out at the Staatsoper due to the “shelter in place” order from the US, most of them eventually sleeping. It was an unforgettable evening for many reasons.)
2017: Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Chicago, IL) on 11.14.17
*Honorable Mention: Götterdämmerung at Canadian Opera Company (Toronto, Ontario) on 02.05.17
— My first time seeing Christine Goerke at Brünnhilde. Her commanding performance quite whetted my appetite for her debut in Chicago’s Ring cycle later that year.
2018: Radiohead at Scotiabank Arena (Toronto, Ontario) on 07.20.18 | Middle Kids at Mohawk Place (Buffalo, NY) on 06.07.18 | Elton John at Scotiabank Centre (Toronto, Ontario) on 09.25.18
— 2018 is a difficult one due to lots of great shows. My gut reaction is that Radiohead’s concert was the best one I saw that year. Simply amazing; even better than the previous time I saw the band. However, I can’t leave Middle Kids off the list. Middle Kids is easily my favorite new band of the last several years. The Australian band has yet to really break big here in the US, but fortunately for me the group played Mohawk Place in downtown Buffalo, an intimate, long-running rock club that holds a couple hundred people at most. Being front row for that was a special experience. (One of my great regrets of the last several years regarding this blog is that I haven’t written about Middle Kids. Hopefully that’ll change at some point.) And of course Elton. This was arguably one of the two best shows I’ve seen of his. Hercules and the whole band were on fire all night.
2019: Redoubt at Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT) on 03.02.19| Tool at Scotiabank Arena (Toronto, Ontario) on 11.12.19
— Attending the premiere of Redoubt (both the film and exhibit), along with attending an artist talk and getting to briefly meet Matthew Barney, was quite an experience. And then, months later, I learned that my boys are back. Great bookends to the year.
*Honorable Mention: Bon Iver at Scotiabank Arena (Toronto, Ontario) on 10.06.19