2009 In Review: Best Live Shows of the Year

2009 In Review: Best Live Shows of the Year

December, 17, 2009

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From the massive U2 show at Carter Finley Stadium to intimate street festivals in the downtown area, here are a few of our favorite live concerts of the year. Let us know in the comments section what we missed or shows that you enjoyed, I’m sure there are MANY more than this.

Karen Mann

U2 @ Carter Finley Stadium
It kind of pains me to admit this, seeing as I got all curmudgeonly about the overly complicated stage and the lack of oldies, but the fact remains that nothing this year outdid U2’s October 3 concert. For all his pompous jack-assery, Bono knows how to work a crowd, making Carter Finley seem as intimate as a living room. He also name-checked both Jesse Helms and John Edwards in the same sentence without bringing politics into it, and even made the gorgeous full moon seem like it appeared at his command. No, I didn’t recognize a lot of the newer stuff they did, but I have to admit the band sounded spectacular. Too bad they didn’t play “October” (really, wouldn’t that have just been amazing on that night?) and too bad a lot of people didn’t get to experience the show at all because of parking snafus.

Joan Jett @ Downtown Live in Moore Square
The hardest-working, hardest-rocking woman in show business owned Moore Square and proved what a lot of us have been telling Deep South Productions for years: If you book someone good, people will come. Let’s hope Joan was a wake-up call, and next year’s Downtown Live will be devoid of the faceless ‘90s one-hit-wonders that have dominated that concert series for so long.

Erectus Monotone, “Vertigogo” from Mann's World on Vimeo.

Erectus Monotone @ Tir Na Nog
One of the best bands from the 1991 “Raleigh is the next Seattle” craze reforms and sounds better than ever. And we didn’t even have to go to Mergefest to see them. Too bad this seems to be a one-off reunion.

Tonk’s debut @ Cooke Street Carnival
‘70s AM-radio, homemade-Nudie-suit-wearing country tonk at it’s finest, the kind that brings to mind fistfights, bourbon and big-haired women named Lurleen, makes one of the most anticipated debuts of the year on a really cold day in Oakwood. It takes a lot to get me to stand outside in the cold. These guys are worth it.

Raleigh Undercover @ Tir Na Nog
After an inauspicious beginning, with lots of bitching about whether the sacred memory of Kings would be tarnished by a new “Great Cover-Up”-style event, Raleigh Undercover exploded with some fabulous tributes in an wonderful new venue. Valient Thorr killed it as P-Funk and Left Outlet earned my undying respect as a spot-on Queen (and I can’t think of anyone else around here who could do that!). Despite the fact that I got kicked off of YouTube as a result of this event (Bryan Adams’ people were not happy with me recording The T’s playing his songs), this goes down as my favorite Undercover/Cover Up ever.

Honorable mentions (ie - not in Raleigh)
Mergefest: No, I didn’t go, but with all the real-time Tweets, I kind of felt like I was there. I’m most bummed about missing Pure.

Troika: I saw a few good bands at this premiere local music fest, including Megafaun, The Beast and The Love Language. I hope they can figure out a way next year to have a bus drive people from venue to venue.

The Jesus Lizard at Cat’s Cradle: Proof that old people can still rock, and still be just as brutal as they were 15 years ago. Too bad this show coincided with the first night of Troika.

Planet Caravan: Woefully under-attended two-day doom metal showcase in Asheville. I got to experience legends such as Pentagram and Wino as well as awesome newer bands such as Kylesa, Zoroaster, Bison BC and Pick Up the Snake.

Check out Karen’s blog, MannsWorld for more local music writeups.

Jedidiah Gant

Neko Case w/ Crooked Fingers @ Meymandi Hall
My wife introduced me to The New Pornographers and Neko Case a few years ago. I am still warming up to the abstract indie pop of the New Pornos but can’t get enough of Neko Case. Neko’s voice filled Meymandi Hall at The Progress Energy Center for Perfoming Arts like no other artist I have seen live in the space. She bounced through old hits and a good amount of new songs off of her fabulous new album “Middle Cyclone”. Folk rockers Crooked Fingers were an excellent choice for openers and the constantly morphing animal scenery on stage with Neko added some humor and playfulness to her stage presence.

Colossus @ New Raleigh Cherry Bounce Showcase at Berkeley Cafe
I had heard a lot and read a lot about Colossus for a while, but had never seen them live. New Raleigh was lucky enough to get them on the bill for our local music showcase for Cherry Bounce at Berkeley Cafe back in September. They band blew me away on stage with their frantic guitar work and enveloping energy. Fewer local bands I have seen can captivate a crowd’s attention for 30 minutes like Colossus can.

The Love Language @ Schoolkids Records:
This is the only time I was able to see The Love Language live in 2009 but it was worth it. I snuck some french fries and a beer from Sadlacks into the cd aisles and watched as the much hyped band raced through a handful of songs in one of their first performances as a band and as a precursor to their CD release show that evening in Chapel Hill. The six piece band was packed into the corner stage in the record shop, making the best of their density by singing loud and dancing on top of each other.

The Rosebuds @ BugFest
I choose this show as one of my favorites of the year mainly because it was my 5 month old son Oliver’s first live concert (He was only 2 1/2 months old at the time). The ‘Buds were great but watching Oliver watch the band at such a young age was a fascinating experience.

Whatever Brains @ Tir Na Nog
One of the few Local Beer, Local Band shows I was able to make this year was Pink Flag and Whatever Brains. Both newcomers on the local music scene, Pink Flag showed some pretty-punk promise, but it was the wired Whatever Brains that tore up the stage with lots of noise and little respect for anyone’s ears.

Honorable mentions (ie - not in Raleigh):
The best shows I saw in the area, but not in Raleigh, were Morrissey at DPAC and Bonnie Prince Billy at The Arts Center in Carrboro. The two shows couldn’t have been in completely different venues with very different vibes, but both men put on an evening’s worth of fabulous music. One was intimate and calculated, the other boisterous and nostalgic.

Worst Show: Steely Dan @ DPAC
I’m glad I went, but I have little to say about this show.

Read More



Tir Na NogThe RosebudsThe Love LanguageWhatever BrainsColossusTonkU2Erectus MonotoneJoan JettLocal Beer, Local Band


  • ScottW
    12/17 05:20 PM

    Thanks for the post!  The Hold Steady and Drive By Truckers show at Lincoln Theater was pretty damn good, too.

    But as a fan of both downtown Raleigh and good music, this list is a bit thin… 

    I was able to see so many great shows this year in Chapel Hill like Grizzly Bear & Here We Go Magic, Built to Spill, Kurt Vile, Atlas Sound & Broadcast, Telefon Tel Aviv, etc.  I appreciate the diversity of our live music, but Raleigh could definitely use a venue like Cat’s Cradle or the Orange Peel to draw some of these acts.

  • Alex
    12/18 09:54 AM

    Filter at Downtown Live @ Moore Square was a pretty good show as well.

  • Danny Rosin
    12/18 11:17 AM

    Don’t forget about great live music for a local cause - Band Together’s June 09 show with Chatham County Line, The Rosebuds, Rusted Root, and HOBEX brought out almost 3,000 folks and raised over $140,000 for The Lucy Daniels Center.

  • Matt
    12/18 11:33 AM

    Jed, agree about Morrissey at the DPAC. It was a fantastic show.

    I may catch grief about this, but I’d include Coldplay at the The Shed. A fantastic show.

  • Stacey
    12/18 12:55 PM

    The Leonard Cohen show last month at the DPAC was phenomenal. For being over 70 years old, Cohen hasn’t lost a bit of his coolness, and he gave the audience his all with three encores. It was fantastic.

  • dZ
    12/18 03:01 PM

    The National - Lincoln Theatre

  • hbomb
    12/18 05:15 PM

    planet caravan ruled, karen. thanks so much for including me on that trip! don’t forget about pentagram!!!

  • Todd Morman
    12/18 08:00 PM

    The John Adams Violin Concerto by the NC Symphony with Leila Josefowicz in a fabulous dress rocking the house is in my top 5 for the year, for sure. That the Old Money symphony crowd was so obviously enraptured by such a strange, challenging, very modern piece (after giving Llewellyn serious shit for choosing too-modern programs in years past) is all the evidence you need.

  • Music is my BF
    12/21 11:41 AM

    Cut Copy @ the Cats Cradle
    Beach House & Celebration- Metro Gallery (Baltimore)

    Best of 2009!

  • abbsouth
    12/21 11:51 PM

    the Love Hangover at Pour House was terrific, for many of the same reasons that Undercover was (RIP Kings!) and for slightly out of town but both Raleigh bands… Bowerbirds and Megafaun at the Arts Center was just amazing.

  • shoegazer
    12/22 02:43 PM

    Yo La Tengo were awesome at the Carolina Theater. So much so that I went to their Asheville show as well.

  • Holy
    12/23 06:14 AM

    Cool, i really liked all these list and your blog which gave a refreshment of all the good memories we ha\d this year in all parties.Thanks a lot for sharing this with us.

    dsi r4

  • DJ Castro
    12/23 11:58 PM

    Maxwell at the DPAC was the best show in the triangle this year by a landslide!

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