See, hear, recall

CL’s critics revisit 2001’s live music highlights

Too busy reading the newspaper? Well, look at all the great shows you missed this year. To name just a few:

Dave Douglas Charms of the Night Sky (Jan. 29, Red Light Cafe). The presence of violinist Mark Feldman alone would’ve made this one of the best shows of the year. But as a unit, Dave Douglas’ remarkably skilled quartet was simply amazing — particularly during the solos. (OK)

Nightporters (March 13, Variety Playhouse). A welcome return from one of Atlanta’s beloved “scene” bands. Totally intact, healthy and on-target, Andy Browne and Ray Dafrico were obviously having a blast. Bassist Tim Nielsen, freed from his drivin n cryin duties for the evening, was a pleasure to watch, and it was good to see original drivin n cryin drummer Paul Lenz back after a lengthy forced retirement. (LS)

King-Kill 33s/Liars Club (March 24, The Earl). Reunions can be bittersweet, but there was nothing sweet about this show. Still as fiery, delightfully strange and unsettling as ever. (LS)

Opeth (May 9, Masquerade). Combining labyrinthine progressive metal with slashes of black and death, Norway’s Opeth hit the stage with no props, costumes or face paint, and proceeded to humbly blow everyone away. A rare metal gig that held the crowd in a state of awed unity. (MF)

The Joey Ramone Tribute/Benefit Show (May 16, The Earl). There’s hardly a musician in Atlanta’s rock scene who wasn’t touched or influenced in some way by Joey Ramone. And a righteous plenty of them turned out in force to participate in this event, delivering hair-raisingly good renditions of their favorite Ramones’ tunes. Unlike most “benefit” events, this one actually raised some money: more than $900, which went to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization fighting the disease that claimed Joey’s life. (GN)

Nagchampa featuring My Cousin Troy and Pam Howe (May 22, Red Light Cafe). One of a series of music and art parties, art curator Karissa Hubbard’s “Nagchampa” series was a nice peek into the multi-layered world of the Kaleidoscope scene. Troy was testifyingly effective and Pam Howe’s quirky sweetness and streetwise charm melded nicely with the assorted alternative art on the walls. (LS)

Swimming Pools Q’s (June 8, Echo Lounge). For those who witnessed most of the old wave of new wavers, the Q’s CD release party was a wonderful and welcome evening. Jeff Calder and company proved once again how literate and challenging their material remains after 20 years. (LS)

Skrol (June 15, Eyedrum). Rock ‘n’ roll needs more women with the guts and unhinged gusto of Martina Sweeny. Fronting Czech-based industrialists Skrol, she screeched and tranced out, letting her long locks come in contact with a candle flame. (MF)

Michael Franti & Spearhead (July 1, Smith’s Olde Bar). It was the perfect blend of hip-hop, funk, old-school soul and social consciousness, all wrapped up in a joyful celebration of life. Franti and crew delivered their powerful message in a way that kept minds open and asses shaking. (JK)

Area:One (July 11, HiFi Buys Amphitheatre). Sequestered at HiFi Buys for two days to work out the kinks, the Moby-led Area:One tour kicked off its run with hometown co-headliners OutKast. (TW)

Roxy Music (July 26, Chastain Park Amphitheater). The reunited art-rockers dove into their extensive catalog at a rare Atlanta date. With a jaw-dropping light show, Vegas-styled dancers and a dozen musicians on stage, the breathless display remained classy and musical despite the glitzy trappings. (HH)

Radiohead (July 30, The Meadow at Stone Mountain Park). Few people get the chance to experience one of Britain’s famed music festivals, so one of Britain’s most famed bands brought the experience to the States. Set up in a muddy field near Stone Mountain, Radiohead — preceded by turntablist Kid Koala and fellow Brits the Beta Band — showed that, above and beyond the group’s “difficult” albums, the hype had substance. (TW)

Richard Devine (Aug. 6, MJQ Concourse). Two-thirds of the audience left before the headliner when Atlanta beat technician Richard Devine — hiding behind three laptops — opened in a rare local live moment for IDM producer Marumari. Devine’s more cerebral sounds captivated the crowd. (TW)

The Plastic Plan (Aug. 18, The Earl). As the two-year history of instrumental “futurewave” trio the Plastic Plan came to a halt (with members fleeing to opposing coasts), Colin, Ashley and Dain offered a mammoth (by their two-minute pop nugget standards) hour-and-a-half set at The Earl. And who can forget the puppets? (TW)

Madonna (Aug. 18-19, Philips Arena) and U2 (Nov. 30, Philips Arena). Two of the year’s top draws drew raves not for doing anything new, but for appearing renewed. Both redeemed themselves after a lackluster — or, in Madonna’s case, simply a lacking — recent touring history. By breaking out the classics (U2) and breaking out the big production numbers (Madonna), they broke out of a rut. (TW)

Drive-Invasion (Sept. 1-3, Starlight Six Drive-In). A very cool alternative to Music Midtown, this year’s rowdy outdoor celebration of ’50s/’60s retro music and culture was presented with a much-improved stage design and sound system, as well as a breath-taking, hip-shaking assortment of live bands. The Woggles, the Penetrators and the Hate Bombs teamed up on stage with dozens of local dancers and the three female stars of Russ Meyer’s cult classic Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! for Saturday night’s go-go romp and mock gang-fight. (GN)

American Dream (Sept. 8, Nexus Artparty). American Dream’s mix of cello and harp, augmented by standard rock guitar, bass and drums, is a nice change of pace from the standard drone. David Railey’s gloriously imperfect vocals added a much-needed human touch to this sometimes ethereal, sometimes gently rocking band. (LS)

Yayhoos (Sept. 26, Smith’s Olde Bar). Ex-Georgia Satellite Dan Baird blasted through a set of gritty Southern-fried, whiskey-drenched rock ‘n’ roll, played with loose exuberance by this ad-hoc Nashville supergroup. (HH)

The Twang bangers (Oct. 4, Smith’s Old Bar). Four of Hightone Records’ finest pickers assembled for a night of memorable guitar playing and honky-tonk vocals. That’s country and western. (JK)

The Penetrators (Oct. 13, Star Bar). This excellent show by the storied local surf-rock band opened with the group’s new rhythm guitarist, Jet Powers (aka U.S. Air Force Capt. Dan McNeill), entering the club through the front door with a parachute trailing behind him, while the other members played “Secret Agent Man” and the 007 theme. The stunt assumed an air of poignancy just a few weeks later, when McNeill was called to active duty. This time the parachute was for real, as he found himself piloting a JSTARS spy plane over Afghanistan. (GN)

Femi Kuti (Oct. 29, Variety Playhouse). Fela’s son tore up the joint with a stage full of musicians and backup singers/dancers in a colorful non-stop Afro-funk festival that successfully combined politics and an infectious booty-shaking groove. (HH)

Black Goldstein (Nov. 9, Smith’s Olde Bar). A low-key beginning for a high-voltage band. BG takes all the excess of the ’70s and refines it into a soulful set of grinding and raging originals. The Black Crowes wish they had these songs. (LS)

The Yum Yum Tree (Nov. 16, Smith’s Olde Bar). Andy Gish’s evolution has been played out over the past year on stages across the city. Her efforts to find a platform for her bitingly sardonic observations have been, at times, uneven. This show seemed like the culmination of all her hard work. Now a four-piece with a dynamic guitar player, the band proved that it’s as good as any of those slightly creepy, often oblique 4AD-type acts with national followings. And they have a ton of catchy songs, too. (LS)

ICP Orchestra (Nov. 23, First Existentalist Congregation). With an incomparable playful interaction, the players exuded a genuine sense of exploration and wonder throughout the two-hour set. Duke Ellington would’ve been proud of what ICP did with “Solitude.” (OK)

Contributors: Mitch Foy, Hal Horowitz, James Kelly, Omar Khalid, Greg Nicoll, Lee Smith and Tony Ware.??