In the event that dumbass college roommates and gullible, spiritually confused conspiracy theorists (not to mention Mayans) the world over are right in predicting mankind's end in 2012, Nashville's active concert buffs can at least take comfort in remembering just how killer a year 2011 was for kick-ass shows. Here are some of the highlights, and just a couple of, um, lowlights:
Lady Gaga at Bridgestone Arena
Clad in raw meat and soda cans, Lady Gaga's cult of Little Monsters poured into Bridgestone when the pop star of the decade came to Nashville for the first time — and she blew us away with sheer force and an evening of beautiful music.
U2 at Vanderbilt Stadium
Unlike Gaga, Bono and the boys had played Nashville before. But that was almost 30 years ago. They compensated for the wait by dwarfing Vanderbilt Stadium with the biggest stage ever constructed and one of the most dazzling rock spectacles the city has ever seen.
Flaming Lips at The Ryman
The Ryman could've held a repertory screening of Walk the Line and it wouldn't have emptied as many tear ducts as Wayne Coyne and his fearless freaks' embrace of love, life, death and confetti.
Guided by Voices at Cannery Ballroom
One-half of the crowd that went to this show got blackout drunk and can't remember it. The other half told them what a great time they had.
Wanda Jackson at Third Man Records
Jack White and the Third Man House Band he assembled to play on the White-produced Wanda Jackson comeback record The Party Ain't Over only backed up the still-reigning Queen of Rock for a handful of shows. This was one of them. It ruled.
Yelawolf at Phatkaps
Even if you missed this barely pre-fame Yelawolf Antioch in-store, you'll probably spend decades telling people you were there.
Elvis Costello and the Imposters at The Ryman
It wasn't the first time Elvis Costello played The Ryman, but given the treasure trove of good times and even greater jams found on Napoleon Dynamite's Spinning Wheel of Songs, it might have been the best.
Sade at Bridgestone Arena
If you skipped Bob Dylan's Ryman show to see Sade Adu lead her band through an epic onslaught of smooth R&B at Bridgestone, you know about her strobing, three-dimensional imagery projected onto the biggest set of stage-draping bed sheets you've ever seen.
Taylor Swift at Bridgestone Arena
Taylor Swift turned a total of three shows at Bridgestone this year. If you were a teenager, it was life changing. And if you weren't a teenager, the show was enough to make you feel like one again.
Ty Segall at Exit/In
We can't very well blame Rock Block pillar Exit/In for covering its ass with a new "no stage diving" policy in this age of litigious excess. That said, when the expectedly daredevil patrons of September's Ty Segall performance got a bit beyond the venue's control, Exit didn't exactly act its age by pulling the plug on the PA during the band's encore. Not that this stopped a damn thing. The band stormed through two more songs before the house relented and turned on the juice for one last jam, where Segall himself surfed and sang along the top of the equally embittered crowd.
The Lemonheads at Mercy Lounge
Anticipation and expectations ran high when '90s alterna-pop legends The Lemonheads were scheduled to play 1992's It's a Shame About Ray in its entirety. Whether or not folks enjoyed the show depends on how deep one's affection for train-wreck troubadours — namely, Evan Dando — goes. Citing obvious problems with his voice, Dando ran through only half a dozen tunes with his rhythm section. He fumbled through the rest of the show with a ramshackle, solo electric mix of covers, originals, stops, starts, unintelligible banter and eventually about 92 percent of Ray to the best of his ability that night — which isn't saying much.
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