Best Shows of 2007

The Pope of Mope: Live performer of the year.

1. Morrissey, Wolf Trap, July 2 and Constitution Hall, Nov. 2
I won't go as far as saying that my first 26 years on this planet were a complete waste because I wasn't a fully-fledged member of the Cult of Moz ... but they kind of were. I went into the July show with middling expectations because I was never a Smiths devotee and Morrissey had just canceled a handful of shows due to voice woes. I came away a complete convert. I generally think that showmanship is overrated and serves a crutch for acts that know they don't have great songs, but that's not the case at all with Morrissey. He's absolutely magnetic on stage, whether he's using the mic cord as a lasso, dramatically ripping his shirt off or leaning down to accept trinkets from fans. Combine that with his singular croon, his hilarious/heartbreaking/honest lyrics, his powerhouse backing band and the complete adoration of his fans, and it's pure magic. When it was all over I walked up the stairs of Wolf Trap's Pavilion in a delighted daze, tempered only by my immediate realization that I have been missing out for so long.

He returned to the area exactly four months later and not even the sometimes-dreary acoustics or the stale setting of Constitution Hall could ruin the show. It was another flawless performance and he didn't even recycle too many tunes from the summer show. How good was it? The night of the show I dreamt I was one of those fanatics pressed up against the stage, stretching out my hand in the hope that Moz would touch it. He did. It was a great dream, much better than that one I usually have where I'm on a rollercoaster but my harness doesn't work and I'm holding on for dear life and nobody will stop the ride. I'm so sick of that dream.
(Original Review)

2. Double Dagger, Floristree (Baltimore), July 21
Sometimes perfect circumstances make for a perfect performance. Baltimore 's experimental underground scene had been percolating for a few years and hit it big time this year (well, relatively speaking, of course) when acts like Dan Deacon and Spank Rock became blog favorites. Whartscape was a weekend-long affair up in Charm City highlighted by a ten-band, BYOB, Saturday night soiree at Floristree, a sweaty, stinky warehouse space that would make Warhol proud. Double Dagger is a voice/bass/drums three-piece that plays pummeling, loud political art-punk, somewhere in between Unwound and Fugazi. Their intensity is always off the charts and this time it was matched by the audience. There may only be a hundred people who know the words to every Double Dagger song, but it's likely all of them were right there, pressed up against the makeshift stage, smashing into each other, catching singer Nolen Strals when he leaped off stage and all the while shouting along. Check out the video below of "Luxury Condos for the Poor," my favorite song of 2007. It was my most uplifting musical moment of 2007.
(Original Review)

3. Oakley Hall, Rock and Roll Hotel, Sept. 6
To get the essence of what makes Oakley Hall so great, read this excellent article by Brian Barr from Seattle Weekly. His main argument is that few American bands actually sound American, and this Brooklyn-based sextet is able to combine all of the country's disparate influences into a cohesive sound. On this night at the Rock and Roll Hotel 30 or so very lucky folks saw the band deliver sparkling versions of every song they played. It's mostly a noisy version of country-rock, but since the band employs two lead singers and takes cues from plenty of other subgenres - psych rock, power pop, drone rock - each song showed the band in a different light. In my notes for the show I wrote "no way maintain" after the third song, since they came out of the gate on fire, but each song managed to be better than the next. If you like rock-and-roll, please don't miss this band next time they are in your town.
(Original Review)

4. Spoon, 9:30 Club, Oct. 23
As a longtime Spoon fan I flipped out when the band opened with "I Could See the Dude" a standout from the band's overlooked (and brilliant) 1997 EP "Soft Effects." When they followed that with "Utilitarian" and "The Minor Tough" from the next year's "A Series of Sneaks" the flipping out turned into freaking out. The setlist ended up being a chronological walk through Spoon's discography, a perfect gimmick for a band with such a deep, satisfying catalogue. A three-piece horn section gave extra oomph to songs like "The Underdog" and "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb," but it was frontman Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno who stole the show. I've seen many Spoon shows over the past decade and most have been mediocre, largely because the precision and economy of sound that make their albums so great doesn't translate on stage. That wasn't the case tonight as the band was completely locked in and they knew it. When Daniel walked off stage after an absolutely searing version of "My Mathematical Mind," he was wearing the opposite look as a couple months earlier at Virgin Festival.

5. Jens Lekman, Black Cat, Oct. 25
Probably the most joyful show I attended this year. Once again I'll point you somewhere else to explain the overall appeal of Lekman - in this case Stephen Metcalf's fawning ode at Slate - and it all rang true at the Black Cat. With his lyrics the baby-faced Swedish singer-songwriter can bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye on consecutive lines, and those words are wrapped in pristine, idiosyncratic pop packages played by his all-female Nordic backing band. "The Opposite of Hallelujah" was buoyant and bouncy, "Sipping on Sweet Nectar" was a cheeky bossa nova and a solo version of "Shirin" made for the most silent, enraptured audience I've witnessed in 13 years of going to shows at the Black Cat.
(Original Review)

6. Panda Bear, Ottobar (Baltimore), June 21
This show was just as otherworldly as Panda Bear's (Animal Collective's Noah Lennox) amazing 2007 album, "Person Pitch." Not bad, since he was alone on stage, with just a couple keyboards and samplers to keep him company. Whatever buttons he was pressing, they were all of the right ones. But most crucial was that his voice was as soothing and transporting as on record, floating gently above his layered, tribal sound collages. Apparently there were some pretty neat movies being shown on a projector behind Lennox , but I was too busy being in a state of closed-eyed bliss to know.

7. The Points, The Red & the Black, Oct. 27
In terms of actual performance this show might not crack my top 40, but in terms of spectacle it was easily No. 1. Going to shows can become fairly routine. Band plays, people stand there, clap politely, sip on a beer, repeat. This was not one of those shows. The local trio (sometimes a quartet, but not on this night) played 30 minutes of rowdy, high-octane garage punk that inspired some members of the crowd packed into the tiny H Street club to almost literally tear the place apart. It was the only show I attended this year - and I set a new record by attending 107 - that actually felt dangerous. And I loved every second of it. Even when that sweaty, bloody guy fell right into me.
(Original Review)

8. Prinzhorn Dance School , 100 Club ( London ), Oct. 17
I lucked out big time that this band was playing in London during the week I was there this fall. (A planned May tour of the U.S. was scrapped due to visa problems.) This show was an exercise in what I like to call sinister minimalism. Prinzhorn's songs stop, start, lurch, explode and disappear. Rarely will the guitar, bass and drum be played at the same time - silence is just as important an element in the band's taut sound. Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn don't sing, they shout and it's usually some peculiar call to arms such as "I do not like change!" or "You are the space invader!" It's music that makes you feel uncomfortable, but in a good way.

9. Jonathan Richman, 9:30 Club, Feb. 9
When Jens Lekman reaches his 50s he'll be lucky if he's still as endearing as Richman is today. The former Modern Lover and proto-punk has put those days long behind him and now gets by on the same sort of goofball charm that Lekman possesses. He sings silly songs like "Here Come the Martian Martians" and "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," breaks into some variation of a herky-jerky hula with regularity and there's even something amusing about the flamenco-style guitar playing.
(Original Review)

10. A Place to Bury Strangers, Black Cat (backstage), Aug. 15
The band's show last year at the late, great Warehouse Next Door is probably in my top 10 shows of all time, but this one has to settle for the last spot on the 2007 Top 10. A few weeks after this gig the Brooklyn trio, which plays an ear-splittingly loud mixture of shoegaze, drone and garage rock, received a rave review on Pitchfork and is now one of indie's hottest acts. There's no way they'll play for 40 people on the backstage again. It's hard to get past the volume, but guitarist Oliver Ackerman is a master manipulator of his noise, many thanks to his army of self-designed pedals which make his six-string sound sometimes menacing, sometimes piercing, always ferocious.

Near Misses: Jay Reatard, Black Cat (backstage), July 23; Professor Murder, Black Cat (backstage), Aug. 16; LCD Soundsystem, 9:30 Club, May 13; Howling Hex, Iota, March 15; Mika Miko, Floristree, Aug. 19; Last Town Chorus, Iota, Feb. 3; Ted Leo, 9:30 Club, March 29

By David Malitz |  December 26, 2007; 10:38 AM ET Year-End Lists
Previous: Christmas Tribute: James Brown | Next: 10 Best Indie Rock Songs You Didn't Hear In 2007


Please email us to report offensive comments.

If you missed both tours of ZappaPlaysZappa and Experience Hendrix, you truly missed out on the best shows of the year.

Posted by: CHICO13 | December 26, 2007 10:58 AM

Saw Jonathan Richman at a small venue in Central Illinois. I wish he'd played some of his older material, but he still put on a great show.

Posted by: Kdog | December 26, 2007 11:03 AM

I'm a huge Spoon fan, but they suck live. I saw them at Sonar in Baltimore and was totally disappointed with their live show. They get up on stage, "Hi, we're Spoon. Here's a song." They played the song and then said, "OK. Here's another song." It was very dull.

Best show hands down was Cornelius (an electronic influenced Japanese rock band). Their show blew my mind, it was amazing. They had great stage presence and an awesome visual display. They really got the crowd going and were very interactive despite not speaking a lick of English. They will be at the 9:30 Club in January! :)

Posted by: InMoCo | December 26, 2007 11:04 AM

Experience Hendrix? Really? I wasn't there but Dave McKenna said that show was pretty brutal. Usually when a big show gets a review that negative the comments section is filled with people bashing the author of the review but in this case everyone was in agreement that the show was way lame. To each his own.

As for Spoon, like I said, I had never seen them play a really excellent show up until a few months ago, but this one made up for many of those lackluster performances. I'm looking forward to Cornelius at the 9:30 Club in January. Saw him there back in 1999 with the Flaming Lips and Robyn Hitchcock and it was a very fun show.

Posted by: David | December 26, 2007 11:19 AM

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in June. Even though the sound at the 930 Club kind of sucked that night, the guitars were loud, the band was in great form and the crowd was into it all!

Posted by: nadabrain | December 26, 2007 11:20 AM

I'm still working on my list of fave shows of 2007, but I think the Hendrix show will make it based just on Buddy Guy and Robert Randolph's performances. There were certainly lulls during the show, but the highs made it worth it.

Posted by: Hemisphire | December 26, 2007 11:37 AM

Agree with the ZappaPlaysZappa shows. The first with Steve Vai and Terry Bozzio were amazing. The second with Ray White and Frank himself on the big screen brought back every Zappa aficionado to the heyday of The Mothers.

Posted by: UncleRemus | December 26, 2007 11:58 AM

Who the hell are these bands? The only one most people have ever heard of is Morrissey. Does the author pride himself on being "underground", or has Rock lost that much of its mass appeal? Either way, what an obscure list.

Posted by: Philly Buster | December 26, 2007 12:12 PM

I've got to put Todd Snider and his infectious ways high on my list. when he ended his show at the Ramshead in annapolis and had everyone singing don't worry be happy you could have sworn he was channeling bob marley. besides barefeet on stage has to count for something.

Posted by: JSM | December 26, 2007 12:13 PM

Philly, i agree, i only know Spoon and Morissey! Maybe that means that all the big name acts put on pretty crappy shows?

I didn't go to the Bruce Springsteen show, but i heard it was absolutely amazing and i'm surprised it didn't make the list. Is this just a "Best of Obscure Bands" list? If so, J. Free needs to do tack onto David's list.

And my personal favorite? Manu Chao! Maybe it's because i've been waiting to see him perform live for 8 years but that was an incredible show with really great energy. Thievery Corp. (opening for Manu) wasn't that great but Manu more than made up for it. :)

Posted by: around | December 26, 2007 12:23 PM

moe at the Warner in February. Great band and great venue. Big band showcase for the Duke Ellington Jazz festival at the Lincoln. Great bands and, again, great venue.

Posted by: 20782 | December 26, 2007 12:36 PM

yeah, Springsteen should be included but the phone booth is far from a great venue.

Posted by: 20782 again | December 26, 2007 12:38 PM

You clearly missed Stevie Wonder at Pier Six in Baltimore. Summer night, boats and people everywhere nearby to hear, and the coolest, lovin'est vibe all over town. Stevie and his band went from one fabulous song to another, with people of every age and race groovin and signing and smiling along. He sounded fantastic. It was so perfect, I didn't bother getting (really great) seats for MCI Center on the return swing. There's no way it could have been better.

Posted by: concertgoer | December 26, 2007 12:51 PM

Obviously, WaPo won't give this guy the money to go to the GOOD shows. Any list topped by Morissey is going to be instantly dismissed by music fans that are not into fey and pretense. This is typical sloppy musical journalism... music criticism is not simply 'gee, I liked this' and 'gosh, I liked that'. But the nature of the beast (freelancer journalists being paid very little to write supposed musical criticisms like this piece) means that these articles are almost always not thought out, swiftly written, and thoroughly shallow.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 26, 2007 1:23 PM

Hey dude, why don't you take a trip out to L.A. and go see a guy named Jon Brion at a club called Largo? Oh, ya, because the show will be sold out and you won't be let in to see it. I can only imagine all the great shows you missed this year because you couldn't get in to see them. lol

Posted by: ErrinF | December 26, 2007 1:26 PM

IBID on the back stage of the Black Cat on sept 10 was the greatest show in the history of rock. I say that not because I'm in the band, which I am, but because I'm an inveterate liar.

Posted by: Matt | December 26, 2007 1:27 PM

Best show of the year was John Butler Trio at 9:30. AMAZING show, perfect setting for JBT and a great vibe from the crowd.

Posted by: Debbie | December 26, 2007 1:38 PM

IBID's performance was indeed AMAZING, I will confirm, especially after learning each one of the band members suffers mild retardation. DEFINITELY a must-see in 2008.

Posted by: drahem_mehard | December 26, 2007 1:42 PM

Our unique sound is best described as "tarDCore."

Posted by: Matt | December 26, 2007 2:04 PM

Another vote for Todd Snider and his amazing performances. Don't know when he's coming back this way soon, but be sure to catch him if he does. His last show at the Birchmere was just as near perfection as the one the night before at the Ramshead.

Posted by: SNC | December 26, 2007 4:59 PM

1. The Polyphonic Spree at 9:30 Club (6/30/07)
2. Tool at Baltimore Arena (6/8/07)
3. Koop at 9:30 Club (11/3/07)
4. Porcupine Tree at House of Blues, Cleveland (5/18/07)
5. Air at 9:30 Club (5/9/07)
6. Grizzly Bear at Black Cat (3/4/07)
7. David Olney & Sergio Webb at Sangha (6/5/07)
8. The Australian Pink Floyd Show at Starthmore (11/6/07)
9. Amiina at 9:30 Club (4/1/07)
10. Blackfield at Ram's Head Tavern (3/15/07)
11. Silverchair at Bowery Ballroom (2/12/07)

Posted by: Here's my list | December 26, 2007 7:24 PM

Yay, I'm not the only one who like the TOOL show in Baltimore. Great night that was.

No, I'm not Arizona Bay, and to each their own. I doubt a whole lot of us would have liked the Rascal Flatts or Poison shows, but I'm sure the people who went to them loved them.

Posted by: EricS | December 27, 2007 11:19 AM

umm...Bruce Springsteen?

Posted by: anne | December 27, 2007 1:56 PM

How can you put The Points @ The Red and The Black at number 7 when The Point teamed up with Andrew WK and The Whips on Aug 25 to nearly bring down the Rock and Roll Hotel on what was one of the most insane triple billings I've ever seen.


Posted by: tom | December 28, 2007 1:42 PM

Well at least someone recognizes that The Points are pretty much DC's best band.

Posted by: Erik B | December 28, 2007 3:29 PM

I really enjoyed the Superdrag reunion show. They were a band I thought I would never see when they broke up a few years ago, but they put together the original lineup and played songs off the first few albums. Great show for fans of the band and a great rock show.

Posted by: Kyle | December 28, 2007 4:29 PM

ErrinF wrote "Obviously, WaPo won't give this guy the money to go to the GOOD shows. Any list topped by Morissey is going to be instantly dismissed by music fans that are not into fey and pretense."

Sorry to disagree with you ErrinF but the Morrissey show at Wolftrap was incredible. To clarify, I am not a Morrissey fan and I probably saw 50 - 60 concerts in 2007.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 29, 2007 12:51 PM

My vote is for the Scanner Freaks at the Rock And Roll Hotel December 1st
. I haven't seen a band play with that much energy in a log, long time! They have my vote for DC's best.

Posted by: Allie | December 30, 2007 1:06 AM

The Drones at 9:30 club. (They opened for Band of Horses. ) Those who knew the Drones already, and I think many of those who didn't, were knocked out by the intensity of this show. I was blown away. I stayed for Band of Horses too, and they were well received by their fans, but I was very underwhelmed by BoH. I came away less interested in them than before the show.

July at Patriot Center - the White Stripes. Fantastic! I was close to the stage so the echoey sound in the Pat center was not a factor, the sound was very good. Talk about committed! They rule.

Posted by: solid1 | December 30, 2007 10:51 PM

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