If my calculations are correct, I saw exactly 70 shows in 2006. Here, then, are my favorite gigs of the last year.
1. Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, and Greg, Largo, October 13, 2006: One tiny stage, seven musical luminaries, three-plus hours of music, a brilliant setlist--what's not to love? Sweet dreams are made of this.
2. Scritti Politti, Slim's, November 2, 2006: In the weeks following this show, I exhaustively Googled all matters Scritti Politti (fun fact: Elvis Costello, Sasha Frere-Jones, and the New York Times share my Green Gartside fixation), watched a lot of old videos, put the albums on permanent repeat, and started assembling this list. That is, I obsessed. Surprise surprise.
I've concocted a thousand rationalizations for why I've gone so gaga: nostalgia, (arguably) latent Anglophilia, the rarity of the event, Green Gartside's entirely swoon-inducing presence. But the truth of the matter is the music stayed with me for weeks afterward.
3. Jon Brion, Largo, July 13, 2006: Early 2006 looked to break my previous record for Largo shows attended--then Jon Brion was hit with tendinitis. This was his first full-fledged show at the club in three months' time, and he returned in grand style. And I shattered my Largo attendance numbers, all the same.
4. Elvis Costello, Speedway Meadows, October 6, 2006: Life doesn't get much better than a free Elvis Costello show in your backyard--unless, of course, Elvis plays a beautifully varied list of new songs, old favorites, and relative rarities, then invites a few famous friends to join him onstage. I love this town.
5. Wilco, 9:30 Club, October 19, 2006: I didn't clock my usual number of Wilco shows in 2006, so that makes my decision a little easier. I suspect, however, that even if you doubled my year-end tally, the 9:30 Club would've come out on top.
6. Jeff Tweedy, Henry Fonda Theater, February 12 and 13, 2006: The aforementioned Wilco absence was ameliorated in part by a wealth of Jeff Tweedy gigs, including a six-show run in California alone. These shows justified my claim that not all L.A. audiences suck. At times, it felt like the whole audience was holding its collective breath while Jeff sang.
7. World Party, Great American Music Hall, August 12, 2006: I just noticed this is the second show on my list by a brilliant, reclusive Welsh singer/songwriter with a DIY attitude and a philosophical bent who finally emerged after a long hiatus to sweep through the States and delight longtime fans (whew). How come I never noticed this trend before? And where would I be without them? This show would've clinched a spot on the list purely on the strength of the singalongs, but it turned into a great reminder of Karl Wallinger's awesome talent.
8. Aimee Mann, Largo, April 19, 2006: Believe it or not, I don't go head over heels for every act I see at Largo, which is why it's in the mix with all other venues (for now). But I have a serious bias toward the club, reinforced by gigs such as this one. As much as I love Aimee Mann, I've never been particularly evangelical about her, partly because her live shows haven't measured up to the albums. But this time, I got to see her in a rarified and revealing light, and I'm pretty sure I'm now hooked forever.
9. eels, the Fillmore, May 31, 2006: The eels confirmed their track record for inspired novelty at this goofy, spirited show. Krazy Al for president!
10. Nels Cline, Largo, June 3, 2006: This show wins for the most surprising gig of the year. We got Nels Cline singing a bunch of covers, dedicating a whole set to obscure Neil Young songs, and coaxing Jon Brion out of his tendinitis-plagued hiding.
♥ Jeff Tweedy, Hotel S'n'S, April 8, 2006: It's impossible to think of this show as anything approaching a "normal" gig. It's a treat, a celebration, and a lot of fine music, but the people with whom I get to share the event keep me coming back.
♥ Jon Brion, Largo, December 22, 2006: I had total lister's remorse last year when I realized that I was premature in assembling my annual concert roundup. If I had had the patience to let Jon Brion's last show of 2005 marinate in my brain, it would've found a slot somewhere near the top. So I'm hedging my bets this year and making it an honorable mention instead.
♥ Neil Finn, Largo, December 6, 2006: It's going to be a while before I digest all the events of this day. For now, mentioning it here helps a little.
» top 10 concerts of 2005
» top 5 albums of 2006