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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Best Things That Happened in 2010

After a short break, I am making my grand return to regular posting with my "Best of 2010" list, encompassing the music and events of the past year.  I thought about doing "Top 10 Albums of 2010" but those lists generally result in 1 or 2 real favorites being at the top and the next 8 or 9 being more or less tied for the same position, which is boring and nobody likes boring things.  Except fans of The Shins.  The Shins are the most boring band I've ever heard and people still seem to like them, probably just for the irony of pretending to enjoy a crappy and boring band while secretly loathing it.  But I digress. 

Here, then, is the list.  All selections on this page are mine, and while I am open to bribes, the votes have not been tampered with thus far.

Best Live Concert Experiences:
Note that I said "experience" and not just "Best Live Show."  This factors in the environment, the audience, the bill, the music, and the overall vibe I took away from the concert.

3.  Valient Thorr at the Frequency in Madison
This show, from what I can remember of it, was the most energy I've ever seen a band dedicate to a room of about 60 to 80 people.  The venue was downright TINY for a band that will be appearing at this year's Wacken Open Air festival, but that didn't stop the vocalist, Valient Himself, from thanking each and every one of us for coming out to see them and listening to some rock n roll.  I decided to become a real Thorrior for this show, purchasing a jean jacket and ripping the sleeves off to create a vest before the show, and I ended up in the very first row, headbanging with Valient and bracing myself on the stage monitors whenever the moshers behind me surged forward.  I even threw myself into the mosh a few times, which was great fun in a room about 20 feet across.  The music was great - VT played with such amazing intensity and energy, and the onstage antics of Valient Himself, including jumping into the audience and sitting on the floor to lead us in a round of synchronized rowing, never failed to entertain. 

2.  Iron Maiden at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater in Chicago
This show, to me and the friends that were there, was very special.  Having watched the Iron Maiden documentary "Flight 666" several times, and saying to myself "I so wish I was there" during each set of concert footage, I finally could say that I was at an Iron Maiden show.  The opener was Dream Theater, which was great although their 45-minute set allowed them to only play about 4 songs.  Maiden themselves eventually came on, and despite sound problems during the first 2 songs, played one of the most amazing live shows I've ever seen.  Bruce was hilarious in between songs, and the band played better than most groups half their age.  The energy and crowd participation during "Fear of the Dark," "Iron Maiden," "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Running Free" was astounding and frankly a little overwhelming.  The several hours that I was at this show have been left in my memory as a blur of awesome music, singing crowds, Maiden flags, and warm summer weather.  Couldn't have been better.

1.  The Jagermeister MusicTour at the Rave in Milwaukee
This shows takes the top spot for a variety of reasons.  First, the lineup was the best selection of bands on any concert bill that I have ever seen, short of a real "Big Four" show.  Secondly, for the size of these bands, the venue was rather small, which made it that much easier to see these bands up close and personal.  I may never get to be about 10 feet from the guys in Megadeth ever again.  Third, the music was phenomenal.  Both Megadeth and Slayer played their most classic albums (Rust in Peace and Seasons in the Abyss, respectively) in their entirety, as well as several of their most popular tunes from their discography.  Finally, the crowd was just insane the whole night.  The mosh pits opened up during Anthrax's "Caught in a Mosh" and stayed that way all the way through Slayer's final song, "Raining Blood."  I have never seen a bigger pit than right at the end of that show. 

Best Albums:
Since I don't care for ranked lists all that much when it comes to albums, and since I love these albums too much to rank one above the others, here's a bulleted list of some of the best to come out this year:

  • The Sword - Warp Riders
  • Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time
  • Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit
  • Stone Sour - Audio Secrecy
  • Kalmah - 12 Guage
  • Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare
  • Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
  • Eluveitie - Everything Remains (As It Never Was)
  • Slash - Slash
  • Johnny Cash- American VI: Ain't No Grave
  • High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine
  • Powerglove's "Saturday Morning Apocalypse" is great fun to listen to, but really isn't one of the best of the year.  I have enjoyed it heartily, either way.

Top News Stories of 2010:
Ronnie James Dio Dies-  The death of Ronnie James Dio had a profound effect on the world of rock and metal, as the genre lost one of its greatest singers of all time.  Many fans and artists made tributes to Dio through music and writing, and his memorial service in Los Angeles was attended by thousands.  We'll never forget ya, Ronnie.

Slipknot Bassist Paul Gray Dies - Shortly after the metal world lost Dio, Slipknot's bassist died of an overdose of medication.  This was quite a blow to the band and its fans, and while the band initially claimed to be splitting up, there is now talk of going back out on the road and touring with a "behind the scenes" bassist, relegated even further down in the mix and in the back of the stage than a bassist usually is. 

The Big Four Tours Europe, Announces 2011 Tour Plans - This past summer, the Big Four of Thrash Metal - Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, toured 6 or 7 Eastern European cities as part of the Sonisphere Festival.  The show in Sofia, Bulgaria was broadcast into movie theaters around the world for a special live concert event, and a DVD was produced, which has already sold hundreds of thousands of copies.  Being an owner of the aforementioned DVD, I can confirm it was a pretty special concert.  The four have decided to do it again in 2011, having announced two dates thus far, again Sonisphere shows in London and Paris.

Mike Portnoy Leaves Dream Theater, Joins Avenged Sevenfold After Death of Jimmy Sullivan
This was a pretty devastating piece of news for Dream Theater fans, and a pretty awesome piece of news for Avenged Sevenfold fans.  Portnoy told fans that he was tired of Dream Theater and ready for something new, and A7X provided that opportunity.  Avenged did a long set of tour dates with Portnoy on drums following the death of their drummer Jimmy Sullivan back in December of 2009.  I attended one of these shows, and Portnoy played very well and seemed to be a tight fit for the band.  However, the band and Portnoy have decided to go their separate ways after 2010, and Portnoy's future is unclear.  Dream Theater has now claimed to have selected a new drummer and are waiting for the right moment to make the announcement.

Limewire Shut Down - I guess this counts as big news, but it didn't effect me at all.  All of my 13-year-old-girl readers were super angry, though, and didn't come out of their rooms til Mom got them the new Taylor Swift album.

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