Shows | Mike Rengel

live 75His backing band was shit hot, liberally doused with killer organ/electric piano riffage plus guitar from the estimable Mike Viola.

pixies 500

Pixies | 02.04.14
Peabody Opera House, St. Louis
Even sans Kim Deal, this was both a raucous nostalgia trip and a vibrant showing from a band with a few tricks still left up its sleeve. The new songs more than held their own with the alt rock–defining classics, while Paz Lenchantin deftly filled in on bass and Black Francis howled with as much vigor as 25 years ago.

Arctic Monkeys | 02.15.14
The Pageant, St. Louis
Befitting Alex Turner’s metamorphosis into a debonair teddy boy/greaser, the Monkeys blew the doors off the Pageant with a thunderous show that was at once smoldering, stomping, bouncy, funny and sexually charged/intense. A bit good, innit? Extra love for drummer Matt Helders having “0114,” the dialing code for Sheffield, written on the skin of his bass drum.

Billy Joel | 04.11.14
Scottrade Center, St. Louis
I’m an unapologetic amateur Joel-ologist, and I’ve seen him several times before. But to see him again, 20 years ago to the day from when he not only inaugurated the newly opened (then) Kiel Center, a show that was also my first ever concert? Magical. Especially given Joel’s renewed sense of energy, strength of voice and skillfully constructed set list, festooned with both crowd-pleasing big hits and nerd-friendly deep cuts. His realization and embracing of the self-professed idea that he has the “best damn job in the world” was on evident display. Joel cracked jokes (from his stock, but still heartfelt), told stories, dove headlong into his role as a consummate entertainer having fun and putting on a show, but also flashed glimpses of the “angry young man” thirsting for acceptance from the greater musical community, all while reveling in a deep, varied back catalog that only a precious few of his peers can match.

Arcade Fire | 04.27.14
Chaifetz Arena
So damn good that even cracking a tooth on artisanal corn nuts at the pub beforehand couldn’t put a damper on its soul-fortifying, flag-waving, disco ball–suited, reflective, body-moving, sing-it-to-the-rafters glory.

Hall & Oates | 05.06.14
Peabody Opera House
I played a game from my upper balcony seat: trying to spot an attendee younger than me. (I’m 34.) I didn’t see anyone. Hall & Oates gave the people what they wanted: an endless parade of blue eyed–soul pop hits played with endless charm and enthusiasm. This was a bit of a musical dream come true. I was too young for Hall & Oates’ touring heyday and assumed I’d probably never catch them live. So the thrill of the encounter, coupled with the infectious grooves of the set, had me white-boy dancing in my seat the entire time. It was one of those shows where neither the audience nor the performers cared one iota about being cool, or about perceived cred. Hall & Oates’ longevity, still-extant chops, and deep catalog of hits speak for themselves. And the crowd? They got every penny’s worth, and a few cents more.

Chvrches | 06.02.14
The Pageant, St. Louis
The sound of a bloody, beating human heart encased in an old-school analog synthesizer. An intimate rave; big things in small packages.

LouFest 2014 | 09.06-07.14
Forest Park, St. Louis
We got Samuel T. Herring whole-ass dancing and death-growling over Future Islands’ heartfelt, buoyant synth pop; Arctic Monkeys (second time in six months!) achingly cool, thunderous Saturday night set; and mothereffing Outkast setting the Sunday night crowd alight to send us all home. And those were just this man’s biggest musical fish. This year’s LouFest was possibly the best to date, somehow managing to be both bigger and more efficient/less of a logistical hassle.

The War on Drugs | 10.12.14
Ready Room, St. Louis
A pristine sound system in a packed room, blissfully awash in waves of sincere guitar, horns, and dusty road trip harmonica-ness.

Ryan Adams | 10.19.14
Peabody Opera House, St. Louis
I finally got a chance to see Ryan Adams in the flesh after 13 years of unabashed fanboy fandom. Not much hyperbole: His music has saved my emotional life many a time in my grown-ass-man life. It was a show where both audience and performer tapped in to some liberating, deep, primordial feels. Adams struck a highly satisfying middle ground between off-the-rails and overly sedate: focusing on the music and delivering a professional performance but still telling goofy stories about late-night tour bus madness, making up improv songs about how the venue should sell popcorn, and saying how he wasn’t going to play “Wonderwall,” giving people in the front row quasi–good-natured shit for getting up and going to the bar in the middle of songs.

His backing band was shit hot, liberally doused with killer organ/electric piano riffage plus guitar from the estimable Mike Viola. The set list was amazing: He played the majority of the new album (which I’m a huge fan of, one of his best in ages), some from Ashes & Fire, and a nice selection of older deep cuts and classics. I was flipping out for, among others: “A Kiss Before I Go,”” This House Is not for Sale,” “Dear Chicago,” and “Let It Ride”—really, the entire thing. It was food for the soul, and one of those shows whose power resounds within you and carries through well into the next day.

The Twilight Sad | 10.26.14
Old Rock House, St. Louis
I’ve been a fan of these guys’ emotionally charged indie-shoegaze since their first record dropped in 2007; finally seeing them live was a massive treat, even more so here in St. Louis. This is a not-so-well-known group that I assumed I’d have to travel to see. The group unassumingly but unabashedly gave it their all, sweating out raw, real feelings over howling walls of feedback. Melody and impressionistic poetry peeked in and out like glimpses of the sun winnowing through the gray of a Scottish sky. This was merely an opening set, but with such passion on display, even a relatively short show left a lasting mark.


Bonus pre-accolade:

El Monstero | 12.26.14
The Pageant, St. LouisBasking in the warmth of good friends and Monstero’s lovingly homegrown Floyd-ian grooves on Boxing Day is quite possibly the perfect antidote to winter’s darkest depths.

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