30 Biggest Concerts of 2009
1. Revisit the Year in Live Music!
2009 was an epic year for live shows -- and SPIN was there to capture the best and biggest of them, from Lady Gaga's Monster Ball extravaganza and Metallica's world tour to Paramore's headlining gig and Nine Inch Nails' last show ever. Click through the gallery to see photos from each concert and read our take, beginning with My Morning Jacket's mammoth New Year's show!
MAGNESS ARENA, DENVER, CO
Supporting their SPIN-approved new album Day and Age, the Vegas foursome opened their U.S. tour by flaunting their extravagant side with a massive curtain of lights, bubbles, and display screens. "The production quality of the show was top notch, and it was immediately clear why the Killers are on the arena circuit," wrote SPIN's Tim Dwenger.
3. KATY PERRY
SHOWBOX THEATER, SEATTLE
Katy Perry kissed a girl in 2008 -- and became a bonafide hit in 2009. But when she kicked off her first national tour in Seattle, the singer's sassy-girl shtick fell flat. She gyrated against a giant inflatable tube of cherry chapstick, sashayed about in her sequined pink halter top and short-shorts, and, at one point, "played -- or attempted to play -- an electric guitar alongside the band," wrote SPIN's Erika Hobart. Esh.
SXSW, AUSTIN, TX
PRUDENTIAL CENTER, NEWARK, NJ
Metal made a big comeback in 2009 and Metallica led the charge with their world tour behind their latest release, Death Magnetic. The quartet stopped in New Jersey and Austin, TX, for SXSW, where they ripped the roof of a secret show for 1,800 fans at Stubb's Bar-B-Q. See photos and read a review from both shows below.
5. LEONARD COHEN
BEACON THEATRE, NEW YORK CITY
Leonard Cohen's grand return to New York has been called the best comeback of 2009 -- and for good reason. "By the end of his first U.S. show in more than 15 years, Cohen proved that not only is he still the king of cool, but even at 74 years old, he's also king of the live performance," wrote SPIN's William Goodman. The musician/novelist/poet put on a dazzling three-hour performance, playing hits like "Suzanne" and "Hallelujah" and sealing his legacy before a diverse crowd ranging from young hipsters to moneyed retirees.
PEARL THEATRE, LAS VEGAS
The first concert from Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan'sside-project Puscifer was "a variety show featuring a revolving group ofmusicians and performers, complete with comedy skits both onstage andonscreen" -- and it "was pure Las Vegas," wroteSPIN's Mike Prevatt. Keenan stretched his "affected baritone" and"evocative tenor," and provided "a rare opportunity to see the multi-facetedartist exhibit his every creative impulse at once."
The Austin fest is a hotbed for thousands of up-and-coming bands out to impress label A&R folk, but this year the seasoned pros like Jane's Addiction, Kanye, Common, Erykah Badu, and more stole the show. Even more, the five-day fest marked the first gig from Perry Farrell and the original Jane's lineup in over 17 years. Read about Jane's first reunion show, plus Kanye's all-star set below.
With Crack the Skye, Mastodon's epic new album, the Atlanta band brought underground, conceptual metal to the mainstream -- and their live set followed through on the album's promise. "If Mastodon's Birmingham gig is any indication," wrote SPIN's Ken McCracken, "their brutal, manic delivery will cement the band's place at the top of the metal hierarchy, and hopefully challenge others in the genre to meet their standards."
9. DEAD WEATHER
BOWERY BALLROOM, NEW YORK CITY
"If your beef with today's crop of rock bands is that they're sexless, style-challenged dweebs who play their instruments like they're afraid to break a nail," wrote SPIN music editor Charles Aaron, "then the Dead Weather certainly corrected that." Helped by Jack White on drums, Alison Moss-- "a wraith-thin tangle of bird's-nest black hair, cigarette smoke, leather, and lipstick" -- led the band in 1960s/70s-inspired rock of their debut Horehound with an oozing cool, like they had "a scotch in one hand and a goddamned Davidoff in the other."
10. NO DOUBT
BORGATA EVENTS CENTER, ATLANTIC CITY
For No Doubt's first show in five years, singer Gwen Stefani took the stage in a wife-beater, showed off her washboard abs, banged out a few pushups, then "led her posse through supercharged song after song, commanding the stage like a cool-as-fuck cheerleader " on hits like "'Just a Girl,'" wrote SPIN's Peter Gaston. "It was an auspicious beginning to an epic summer tour."
BONNAROO, MANCHESTER, TN
The Brooklyn band's late-night gig at the Tennessee fest was their crowning moment, a must-see extravaganza that that attracted a crowd that rivaled headliners Bruce Springsteen and Phish, and had concertgoers talking for days. And when the boys played hits like "Electric Feel" and "Kids," "the whole place lit up like a lava lamp, with multi-colored glow sticks shooting light in every direction," wrote SPIN's William Goodman. "People were dancing. Some were crying (sensory overload?)."
INDIO, CA, OCTOBER 31
Lots of bands -- No Doubt, Blink-182, Sunny Day Real Estate -- reunited in 2009, but perhaps none were as warmly-welcomed as Phish. The band's massive and devout fan base rejoiced when the Vermont group headlined Bonnaroo, playing two nights, and then in October resumed their annual Halloween gig, where they covered the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street from front-to-back. See photos and read a review of both concerts below.>> Phish Treat Bonnaroo to a Three-Hour Extravaganza
>> Phish Covers Stones for the Stoned
HYDE PARK, LONDON
For the reunited Blur's first London show in six years, the lads made a triumphant return to Hyde Park -- a lyrical influence on their hit "Park Life" -- and proved to more than 50,000 fans that they might be the best "new" band of 2009. "Blur's songs have dated not one iota," wrote SPIN's Craig McLean. "And the four bandmates played the 25-song set with such brio, energy, and evident enjoyment at being back together."
14. GREEN DAY
KEY ARENA, SEATTLE
The first stop of Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown tour was all about the fans. Billie Joe Armstrong "pulled onstage no less than six" concertgoers onstage, reported SPIN's Jonathan Zwickel, including one dude, who "laid a long, lingering kiss on Armstrong's mouth, before belting all of 'Longview' like the song was his. Later, Armstrong handed off his axe to a tall, gawky teenager he pulled from the pit -- 'You know "Jesus of Suburbia,' swear to God?' -- and let the kid run, note-perfect, through all of the American Idiot epic."
15. MAYHEM FEST: MARILYN MANSON, SLAYER, AND MORE
SLEEP TRAIN AMPHITHEATER, SACRAMENTO, CA
The first stop of this summer's 16-band Mayhem Festival brought out a "sweaty mass of devil horns, flying fists, and bleary-eyed drunkards lumbering recklessly toward the bathroom," wrote SPIN's Josh Fernandez. The 9,000 fans were in for am evilly austere treat: Slayer's set was "less of a spectacle than a simple, blistering sonic experience; there are no grandiose special effects, only well-timed blasts of guitar, drum, and growl."
THE JOINT, LAS VEGAS
Blink-182 ended a five-year split and launched their reunion tour by showing their immunity to maturation: The gig was "a tongue-in-(butt)-cheek time warp back to junior high, starring a band that has long served as the itching powder in pop rock's jock strap," wrote SPIN's Jason Bracelin. The band was rough around the edges, "but it was hard not to join in on the laughter regardless," especially cracks like this: "Chuck Norris masturbates to us," joked singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge.
17. LIL WAYNE
TOYOTA PAVILLION AT MONTAGE MOUNTAIN, SCRANTON, PA
The opening date of Lil Wayne's America's Most Wanted Tour, featuring Drake, Young Jeezy, Soulja Boy, and the entire crew of his Young Money label, was "an absolute clusterfuck of disorganization, mass police presence, underage drinking and buffoonery, technical glitches, and chest-rumbling moments of musical genius," wrote SPIN's William Goodman. "Welcome to hip-hop's Lord of the Flies -- Wayne's holding the conch."
18. PEARL JAM
'BACKSPACER' U.S. TOUR
20 years into their career, the Seattle alt-rock vets have found a revitalized sound with their ninth full-length album, Backspacer, as evidenced by lean and mean tunes like "The Fixer" and "Got Some." "When Eddie Vedder pulls out that indignant yet inclusive snarl and proclaims, 'When something's gone, I wanna fight to get it back again,' you can probably assume 'it' is his band's mojo," wrote SPIN's Josh Modell in the album's review. "For the first time in years, Pearl Jam are seizing the moment rather than wallowing in it."
To celebrate the band's return to form, we followed trailed the alt-rock vets across the country on their U.S. tour. Read our live reviews below.
19. NINE INCH NAILS
WILTERN THEATRE, LOS ANGELES
Trent Reznor's final live gig with Nine Inch Nails was "an aural bear hug. Followed by a firm handshake, a high five and a rap on the cheek -- the kind of prolonged, reluctant send-off you get from a man's man," wrote SPIN's Kevin Bronson. The band thrashed and threw equipment, invited Gary Numan onstage, and let loose an "assault of sound and light that nearly flattened all but the hardiest headbangers." Now, that's a send off.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY
On the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Jay-Z threw a benefit concert at MSG and invited a few friends to join him -- including Kanye, Rihanna, John Mayer, Pharrell, Diddy, and Santigold! The show also doubled as an album release party for The Blueprint 3, but it was clear the concert was all about New York. There's only one man "who could honor such a terrible tragedy without making the night anything but a celebration," reported SPIN's John S.W. MacDonald. "Jay repeatedly reminded folks of 9/11's somber storyline, and did so with surprising tact. '[That night] I saw the strength and resilience that made New Yorkers, New Yorkers,' he said."
SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO
It takes 120 semis to haul the stage for U2's 360 World Tour from town to town, and at the opening date of the U.S. leg at Chicago's Soldier Field, the over-the-top production paid off. The Irish band went out all for their 23-song set, playing their hits beneath an "enormous claw-like structure pierced with a towering, glowing spire hulking over a rotating stage and 360-degree screen," wrote SPIN's Kyle Ryan. "It's precisely the kind of thing that leaves concertgoers staring slack-jawed and primed for the sensory overload the world's biggest band is required to provide."
22. SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE
COMMODORE BALLROOM, VANCOUVER, BC
The emo pioneers' first show with its original lineup since 1995 got off to a shaky start thanks to frontman Jeremy Enigk's torn vocal chords. But soon the band fell into stride: The show's MVP, drummer William Goldsmith, "bludgeoned his kit during a shock-and-awe 'Shadows,'" wrote SPIN's Mike Usinger, while guitarist Dan Hoerner "unleashed sheets of shoegazing guitar violence." When they encored with "In Circles," "Enigk stood at center stage, howling. Even though he was no doubt in a world of pain thanks to his broken voice, it was beautiful."
23. BON IVER
HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY, LOS ANGELES
As if Justin Vernon's emotionally arresting music isn't haunting enough, the Bon Iver mastermind decided to perform at dawn in a 110-year-old cemetery. The set "proved at once serene and surreal, a true only-in-L.A. experience," wrote SPIN's Kevin Bronson. The evening also included a screening of Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket on the wall of a mausoleum at 2 A.M. and a blessing-of-the-crowd ceremony by Buddhist monks at 5:30 A.M., but the show belonged to Vernon: "His tenor took on a ghostly-like yearning under the gradually lightening charcoal sky."
FOX THEATRE, POMONA, CA
On the opening date of Paramore's tour in support of their SPIN-praised new album, Brand New Eyes, singer Hayley Williams "should have been so happy she could just scream," wrote SPIN's Kevin Bronson. Instead, she "could barely manage a yelp. Her voice hurt too much." The 20-year-old singer soldiered on, but soon turned vocal duties to the sold-out, 2,000-strong crowd, who belted out "Misery Business" as the rest of the band played along. "It was an exhilarating and unifying moment for fans bent on making Williams their generation's Gwen Stefani."
25. THEM CROOKED VULTURES
STUBB'S, AUSTIN, TX
Them Crooked Vultures, the three-headed monster of a band featuring Dave Grohl on drums, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme on vocals/guitar, and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones on bass, kicked off their first-ever U.S. tour by blowing away any naysayers. "Supergroups are, almost by definition, powered by unattainable expectations," wrote SPIN's Nick Courtright. "So when one actually lives up to the hype, it's time to pay serious attention."
VOODOO FEST, NEW ORLEANS
On the opening night of the Big Easy's Voodoo Music Experience, concertgoers received a rare Halloween treat: a concert from Emimen! "This was, after all, the rapper's only public gig promoting his latest album, Relapse, and his ghoulish rhymes and ominous storylines were a perfect fit for the dampened holiday mood," wrote SPIN's Alison Fensterstock. With his crew D12, Em performed his hits while video screens played "quick-cut images of gory body parts and handheld footage of the rapper running, Blair Witch-style, shirtless through the woods." Boo!
THE PALLADIUM, LOS ANGELES
At the opening date of a tour to celebrate 1989's Doolittle, the Pixies cemented the album's status as a classic by ripped through all 15 tracks, with a light show, video screen, and smoke machines to help out. "Black Francis' yowl seemed to age in reverse," reported SPIN's Kevin Bronson, "and had more than one giddy fan asking if anybody had a ticket hook-up for the second night."
28. THE CRANBERRIES
RAMS HEAD LIVE, BALTIMORE
The reunited Irish hit-makers' first U.S. concert in more than six years was met by ecstatic fans -- but produced mixed results. Singer Dolores O'Riordan's Gaelic wail wavered, and "much of the vocal theatrics from hits like 'Zombie' and 'Linger' were taken over by an omnipresent delay effect," wrote SPIN's Michael Byrne. Her pipes did find footing on hits like "Dreams," but whatever her shortcomings, fans were "eager to take over, and really didn't seem to mind that their heroine wasn't quite nailing it."
29. LADY GAGA
WANG THEATRE, BOSTON
Dressed loudly in a skimpy, strappy, sparkly corset, barely-there thong, and a pair of stilettos, Lady Gaga brought the opening date of her Monsters Ball tour to Boston. Her stage set featured startling videos of Gaga as Marilyn Monroe and a "sickly young girl sticking her fingers down her throat and vomiting," wrote SPIN's Linda Laban. Plus, "3-D projections often blurred reality, as a gauzy screen between Gaga and the audience made it hard to tell if it was her or merely an image of her singing."