2005 was indeed quite a monumental year in live music history.
Bonnaroo was as big as ever, remaining the world’s happiest place to jam for days on end.
Pigs flew as Roger Waters returned to the stage to perform with Pink Floyd at Live 8.
Rock’s original power, Cream, reunited for their first shows in over 35 years.
While the next issue of Honest Tune will feature our editor's views on the very best albums of the year, it is virtually impossible to come to a consensus on the year’s best shows. So, for what it’s worth, here are one man’s opinions on the very best shows of 2005… at least the ones I was able to attend.
1. Black Crowes, the Tabernacle, Atlanta, Georgia, May 8 – In 2005, The Black Crowes returned to the stage with a vengeance, performing their best shows in years, if not of their lifetime. As I decided to limit this list to one show per band, this is the only Crowes show found here. Others could have been included, but this Sunday night at the Tabernacle was magical, one of those rock-n-roll shows that keep you coming back for more. In the confines of this old church, we were all treated to a very special Sunday evening services with the Crowes that was a show without peer this year.
2. Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the Joint, Las Vegas, Nevada, October 30 – The most high energy, infectious grooves known to man ease through every note, every move, every moment when Robert Randolph takes the stage. On this night, Randolph poured out every ounce of energy a human could possibly possess, resulting in an electric performance for the ages. The entire show was a highlight, as Randolph and his band served up what was inarguably the best performance of the Vegoose weekend. While history may recall this performance as the night Dave Matthews joined the band for a drunken but jamming second encore, those in attendance will tell you that the real gems had already transpired. Robert Randolph is indeed “The Truth,” and this was perhaps the finest show of his remarkable career.
3. The Last Waltz Revisited, Smith’s Olde Bar, Atlanta, Georgia, November 25 – In all honesty, I really wish I could name this as the best show of the year, as to this day it sticks with me more than any other. But, the tapes leave little doubt that the Crowes show was indeed nothing short of magic, and Randolph, he was just so over the top enthusiastic not to mention talented, that his gig was one of a kind. While most of this show may have happened before, on a Thanksgiving night 29 years ago when The Band bid the fans farewell while also recording perhaps the finest concert film of all time, there was something magical about this, the second reenactment of the show by a group of Atlanta musicians, led by Kris "Jelly Roll" Gloer.
While the band did not replay the movie in it’s entirety, they did perform approximately 20 songs, including numerous guest appearances that gave the show much the same feel as the movie. In addition to Jelly Roll and his band Houndog, the core of the evening’s performance also included E.T. and Kevin Harris of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. As usual, E.T. was a show onto himself, delighting the crowd not only with an awesome musical display, but also with a smile that lit up the entire room. Guest included former Allman Brother Tommy Talton, Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, harp player extraordinaire David Fishman, and Lee and Will Haraway of the Sun Dogs. After performing a stunning first set from the movie, the band took the stage for an equally impressive second set featuring a wide range of covers. The band’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” was truly amazing, sounding as much like the best of the Jerry Garcia Band.
This was truly an amazing night of music, and something that should not be missed when repeated. With 2006 marking the 30th anniversary of the original Last Waltz concert, Jelly Roll promises to bring the heat to the stage again, at least twice; the first of which is scheduled for April 7, once again at Smiths.
4. Tishamingo, J.R.’s Bait Shack, Athens, Georgia, April 15 – Another example of having to limit myself to just one show per band for this list. I did see Tishamingo more than any other band this year, and any of a dozen shows could easily be listed here. But there was something special about this one, a private fraternity party in a bar in Athens, which was about as much fun as a musical performance could possibly be. This also marked the first time I witnessed guitarist Jess Franklin play the keys, as he replaced Jason Fuller for half a song during the first set, a sign of things to come in the band’s future later in the year. All in all, one of the most fun concert experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. I would like to mention more of the great Tishamingo shows I saw this year; I would be remiss to not give some credit to the band’s performance on September 24 in Huntsville, AL. Taking the stage just before The Black Crowes, this was the show that signaled the dawn of the next level for this band, that magical night (especially Jess performing “This Time” for the first time in front of his mother, who stood just by my side) when your favorite band moves from a really good bar band to an act that can hold 10,000 fans in the palm of their hands.
5. Lenny Kravitz and Nikka Costa, the Tabernacle, Atlanta, Georgia, April 9 – Another night of church at the Tabernacle, Lenny is a showman with few peers. He always gives up an inspiring performance, and this night was no different. What pushed the night totally over the top, at least for me, was opening act Nikka Costa, who opened the evening with a jaw dropping set that called to mind not only Lenny, but also Aretha Franklin, and a female Robert Plant. Costa’s super sexy vibe was exciting, but her super strong musical performance is what left the biggest impression of the night.
6. Gov’t Mule, the Tabernacle, Atlanta, Georgia, November 19 – While Mule always delivers a superior live performance, the band’s best performances of 2005 seemed to occur during their Fall Tour. The two night stop in Atlanta was nothing short of incredible, with the Saturday night performance packing a particularly huge whollop that ranked as perhaps the band’s mightiest shows to ever hit the ATL, every bit the equal of the infamous 1999 New Year’s Eve gig.
7. Phil Lesh & Friends, Red Rocks, Morrison, Colorado, July 16 – The second set of this show, clocking in at 2 hours and 25 minutes with barely a moment's breath between songs, was one of the finest set’s of music I’ve ever witnessed, flawlessly played from beginning to end. The first set could have been better, and Ryan Adams is far from my favorite performer, but this was an amazing evening of music on the Rocks. Jimmy Herring and Jeff Sipe, old ARU alumni reuniting as Phil’s Friends, stole the show, with Herring’s working wonders playing that guitar as only he can.
8. Marty Stuart and Friends, Christmas Jam, Asheville, North Carolina, December 17 – Every year, Warren Haynes puts together a once-in-a-lifetime super group, the world’s finest musicians, playing the best damn live music known to man. This year’s band was lead by Marty Stuart, who told tales of his only jobs ever being playing with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, followed by decades performing next to his best friend, and ex-father-in-law, the man in black, Johnny Cash. Joined by Warren, Matt Abts, and Dave Schools, this was country music being played to it’s very finest. As Stuart said as he closed the show, “That’s my kind of country music.” I could not have agreed more.
9. The Meters, Vegoose Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada, October 30 – My favorite set of my favorite festival of all time. The original Meters were back, performing only their third show in the past 25 years, and the funk was brought down upon the desert of Las Vegas. George Porter and company showed that it’s not how often you play together, but how much you feel the music in your soul that counts most. This set was filled with soul and funk, and plenty of good old New Orleans party, calling to mind many a good times in the wondrous town that has just recently been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
10. Aretha Franklin, Gibson Universal Amphitheatre, Hollywood, California, September 10 – There are some artists that you’ve always wanted to see, but rarely get the chance. When I missed the Queen of Soul’s stop in Atlanta earlier in the year, I was determined to find a way to see this tour before it came to close. And I could not have picked a better night than this, where the hip Hollywood crowd included such famous names as Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy (founder of Soul Train). Aretha gave it her all, showcasing the pipes that made her famous on such classics as “Respect” and “Rock Steady.” The real surprise of the evening came when the Queen sat at her piano, and tinkled those ivories in a way in which I could have never imagined. Her band was spot on all night, but once Aretha begin to play, she instantly outshined them all. I left this show very impressed, and most delighted I had made to the trip. Aretha is definitely one of those performers I would suggest everyone see, while you still can.
There where hordes of other great musical events and experiences in 2005, far more than I can mention here. But, as I leave these words to close out 2005, there are a few additional treasures from the year I would like to suggest to all.
While I have never been a fan of Jerry Garcia, I am quick to admit that, when the Fat Man was on, he could indeed make magic. The Jerry Garcia Band Live at Shoreline DVD captures one of those nights, an amazing performance showing Garcia doing what he did best – leading a band of stellar players, catching a groove and playing it like no other. His smile on this night is one of joy, and his playing, and that of his band, shows just how good JGB could be. There is nothing special about the cinematography, which is nothing more than the screen shots from the show, but the music is delightful, Jerry’s magic star shining it’s very brightest.
The Band: A Music History box set is a priceless piece of music history, a virtual treasure trove of classic and unreleased material, documenting the entire career of the collective of musicians confident and capable enough to be known as The Band. Five CDs and one DVD, each as good as the next, and a 100 page book, this set is as good as any retrospective I’ve ever found.
For more on our perspective of the best tunes of 2005, be on the lookout for the next issue of Honest Tune, coming to a mailbox near you soon.