The Best Live Music From 2011

By DNAinfo Staff on December 30, 2011 7:03am

By Danny Jumpertz

Special to DNAinfo

MANHATTAN — 2011 has been a busy year for music fans in New York City. Gigs have been plentiful and the quality high. Big name artists took some risks (Beyonce, The Throne) and reaped the rewards, while some local icons called it a day (LCD Soundsystem).

New York has always played host to the biggest acts on the planet, and this year was no different. Here are some of the standouts:

LCD Soundsystem powered down with some huge shows at Madison Square Garden and Terminal 5 in March after a decade of indie dance rock innovation. 

Their final song, "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down," said it all. A film of the final concert will be released early 2012. 

During the summer, hundreds of outdoor festival shows were celebrated at Central Park, The South Street Seaport and the Lincoln Center. Wilco sold out Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, launching their first album since 2009, "The Whole Love," while punk stalwarts Mission of Burma played Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club in a suitably sweaty affair. 

St. Vincent — aka Annie Clark — previewed her intelligent, experimental pop album "Strange Mercy" at one of the more intellectually stimulating venues in town, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s roof garden.

Human beatboxer and creative improviser Reggie Watts played P.S. 122's RetroFutureSpective Festival benefit in June. 

Beyonce Knowles took the stage at New York's Roseland Ballroom in August for four nights of intimate performances. The set each night was the entire track listing of her current album "4".

Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax dominated the masses at Yankee Stadium in September with a night of heavy rocking metal.

Evergreen reggae and dub legend Lee "Scratch" Perry has recorded more than fifty of his own albums, and he played tracks from his latest, "Rise Again", at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill as part of the ‘Dub Invasion’ Festival in September.

Radiohead played Roseland Ballroom in late September, swooping into the city and frustrating many by selling out almost instantaneously. Tickets were near impossible to get, but the lucky few, or those who paid scalpers a reported $600 for tickets, finally got to hear the band's eighth album, "The King Of Limbs."

Fresh from a stunning performance at the inaugural All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Asbury Park, NJ, (which they curated) Portishead hit the Hammerstein Ballroom in October for a rare and engaging concert appearance. But what's with all the yakking during the songs, people?

Sting's 60th birthday attracted stars to the bright lights of the Beacon in early October. Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Herbie Hancock and Billy Joel all helped celebrate.

When the CMJ Music Marathon hit town, one of the featured venues, Le Poisson Rouge, showcased the sounds of the South Pacific and New Zealand. Highlights were Princess Chelsea (imagine Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra), Pikachunes, and The Golden Awesome.

Also at Le Poisson Rouge during CMJ: Russian American singer songwriter Zola Jesus (aka Nika Roza Danilova), who has gone from being an outsider experimental teenage noise-maker to a full fledged internationally celebrated electronic pop musician during the past three years. She wowed industry and punters with songs from her album "Conatus."

Another 2011 rising star is vocalist Merrill Garbus. Her band Tune-Yards made a splash and her Le Poisson Rouge show garnered rave reviews. 

"Watch The Throne", the big budget concept album and tour created by hip-hop heavyweights Jay-Z and Kanye West, hit Madison Square Garden in November. Collectively, Jay-Z & Kanye West have sold more than 65 million albums, garnered 27 Grammy Award wins and have 17 No.1 albums.

"I hope I die before I get old" may be a classic rock mantra, but the reality has played out quite differently for many pop stars of the past. Aging pop stars continue to play out their glory days, while cool new pop bands seem to be addicted to their own sonic history, as explored this year in Simon Reynold's book, and blog, 'Retromania'.

In November, The Cure revisited their earliest (more guitar-based) recorded material, playing the 1979's sparse and wiry post-punk classic "Three Imaginary Boys", 1980’s "Seventeen Seconds"(containing their first UK chart single "A Forest"), and 1981's long player "Faith" at the Beacon Theatre. 

Also in November, Jazz pianist Chick Corea celebrated his 70th birthday at the Blue Note with a month of shows featuring rotating ensembles of players who had shared Chick’s journey as a band member during Miles Davis’s '60s electric jazz fusion through decades of fearless sonic and musical exploration. The queues snaking along Bleecker night after night were testament to the ongoing influence of this American legend. 

John Fogerty refused to play any of Creedence Clearwater Revival's famous songs (which he wrote) for 25 years after his band's bitter 1972 split. But time heals all wounds, as Fogerty played the entirety of the 1970 CCR classic "Cosmo's Factory" at the Beacon in November.

The venue was the star when MGMT performed a site-specific musical piece at the Guggenheim Museum as part of the opening of the critically controversial but extraordinarily popular Maurizio Cattelan exhibit and retrospective which began on Nov. 3.  

And retro-futuristic pioneers Devo hit town in December to support 2010's "Something For Everybody" — their first full-length studio album since 1990 — while the Foo Fighters unveiled a more garagey and raw sound at Madison Square Garden.

On Dec. 12, Dave Grohl posted on the Foo Fighters website: “The fact that a rock and roll record, made in a garage, could be a #1 album around the world, AND get a Grammy nomination for 'Album of the Year,' it's truly inspiring, and it makes us feel like the luckiest band in the world."

And to round out an eclectic year, Z100's Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden in early December featured a mighty array of the kings and queens of pop circa 2011, including Lady Gaga, who attended the same concert with her mom when she was a teenager.

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