Favorite concerts of 2009

1. BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY, March 14 at the Vic. … Beginning in a hush, one song built to a dramatic crescendo, and Oldham looked as if he was being transported by the magic. … it become clear that this was one show where the performer was pouring everything he had into his songs. He did not let up, either. A little while later, as he let the band play an instrumental break in “Even If Love,” Oldham raised his eyes toward the ceiling. He seemed to be shaking all over. READ THE FULL REVIEW.

2. THE FEELIES, June 29 at the Pritzker Pavilion. … a young man danced his way into the empty area between the front row and the stage, twitching with the sort of spastic moves that looked perfect for the jerky sounds of songs from the first Feelies album, Crazy Rhythms. A park security guard led this fellow away, but he came back a minute later and continued dancing. That seemed to open the flood gates, as people jumped to the front area of the pavilion and started twitching along. Feelies lead singer and guitarist Glenn Mercer seemed to revel in the moment, coming out to the edge of the stage for guitar solos inches away from the upraised hands of fans. READ THE FULL REVIEW.

3. VIC CHESNUTT, Nov. 5 at Lincoln Hall. … At moments, Chesnutt was singing and playing all by himself as the audience quietly listened to each and every creak of the guitar strings and bend in his voice, almost like sitting in Chesnutt’s living room and attending an unplugged performance. And then the songs would erupt as the guitars, keyboards and bowed bass came in, making mountainous, majestic chords. And Chesnutt would rear back his head from the microphone and shout his words up to the mountaintop. (And now alas, Chesnutt is no longer with us. The emotional impact of his Dec. 25 death makes the two concerts I saw by Chesnutt in 2009 feel all the more special.) READ THE FULL REVIEW.

4. PJ HARVEY & JOHN PARISH, June 12 at the Riviera. … Even in minimal moments, she seemed like a lively presence on the stage. And then, the contemplative music gave way to outbursts of ferocity — as on the new record’s lacerating title track. Harvey dropped her voice to dramatic depths or let it soar to lovely highs, as the characters from her lyrics seemed to possess her.READ THE FULL REVIEW.

5. ECCENTRIC SOUL REVUE, Nov. 7 at Lincoln Hall. … The evening was a real blast. A younger soul group, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, served as the house band, keeping the music going almost nonstop for more than two hours as various singers stepped up to the mike. There was barely a pause as the horns kept blowing and the funky guitar chords kept twitching. READ THE FULL REVIEW.

6. ANDREW BIRD, Dec. 14 at Fourth Presbyterian Church. … The most extraordinary moments of this show were the very quiet ones — Bird making a little clicking noise with his music to build a rhythm track, or plucking at his violin strings. READ THE FULL REVIEW.

7. FANFARLO, Nov. 9 at Schubas. … They play with a sense of communal spirit, switching instruments frequently, adding extra drum beats, raising all their voices high in chorus. READ THE FULL REVIEW.

8. FAIZ ALI FAIZ, June 18 at Pritzker Pavilion. … More often than not, Faiz Ali Faiz sang with such full-on force that his face contorted and turned red with exertion. As he sang, his hands were in constant motion, making gestures that seemed almost like a game of pantomime. READ THE FULL REVIEW.

9. MÚM with Sin Fang Bous and Hildur Gudnadottir, Oct. 28 at Logan Square Auditorium. … Múm’s records have sublime hymn-like harmonies, when it sounds like this is a bunch of Icelanders getting together in a little room somewhere and singing to their heart’s content… And so it was at the concert. There was a lot of joyous singing. READ THE FULL REVIEW.

10. DEAD MAN’S BONES, Oct. 21 at Schubas. … The celebratory show had some of the zany sense of humor and the “let’s try something weird” attitude that animated the Flaming Lips at their best. It was certainly a very memorable night. READ THE FULL REVIEW.


The Jesus Lizard, July 17 at the Pitchfork Music Festival
Sonic Youth, June 27 at the Riviera
The Vaselines and the 1900s, May 16 at Metro
The Flat Five, Dec. 11 at the Hideout
The Poster Children, Lonely Trailer, the Outnumbered and Cowboy X, May 24 at the Highdive, Champaign
St. Vincent, April 9 at the Hideout and June 8 at Pritzker Pavilion
Jeff Tweedy, Feb. 14 at the Vic
The Dirty Projectors, June 22 at Pritzker Pavilion
Os Mutantes, Sept. 27 at Subterranean
The Sadies, Nov. 28 at the Hideout
Mount Eerie, Nov. 8 at Lakeshore Theater
The Vertebrats, Oct. 3 at the Highdive, Champaign
Choir of Young Believers, Oct. 26 at Schubas
Rural Alberta Advantage and The Love Language, Sept. 26 at Schubas
The Fiery Furnaces, July 11 at Millennium Park
Oumou Sangaré, July 2 at the Pritzker Pavilion
Jonathan Richman and Vic Chesnutt, June 11 at the Empty Bottle

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