As we glance at 2014 in the rearview mirror, we reflect on a year during which we laughed, cried, and saw a boatload of fantastic live music.
St. Vincent at the Wiltern
St. Vincent is an acquired taste for some, but she has found a mainstream audience with her eponymous fourth album St. Vincent. Annie Clark puts on a sharp and mesmerizing show that’s more performance art than concert, and she’s capable of silencing any critics. What critics, though? Her latest album was just named No. 1 album of 2014 by NME and it charted on Rolling Stone, Uncut, MOJO, The Telegraph, and Paste’s lists of best albums this year. Her live show deserves to make just as many lists.
Jenny Lewis at the Roxy
Two full months before her solo album The Voyager hit shelves, Jenny Lewis treated a few fans at the Roxy to a preview of what would become her set for the rest of the year. Wearing jeans and a Voyager T-shirt, Lewis debuted new material, played older solo tracks, and threw in all the Rilo Kiley staples. There were no cameras or interviews chronicling her return, and that made it feel all the more like Lewis invited us over for a jam.
Jack White at the Fox Pomona
When he’s not feuding with the Black Keys, Jack White continues doing what he does best: being Jack White. Bathed in haunting blue light, he roared through a career-spanning set with tracks from his latest release, Lazaretto, as well as imaginative reworkings of his classics jams, proving that his guitar chops are only getting better with time. His L.A. set had the added bonus of cameos from his friends Conan O’Brien and John C. Reilly.
Arcade Fire at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ
It’s a treat to see a band that draws massive festival crowds play a stage the size of your kitchen, and Arcade Fire put on a shows that could barely be contained by that room. Most any show in this space is worth mentioning, actually. Haim kicked off 2014 with a particularly good set in January.
Cinquanta: Puscifer, A Perfect Circle, et al.
2014 was a busy year for veteran rock frontman Maynard James Keenan. Not only did Tool embark on their first tour in four years, but Keenan also celebrated his 50th birthday with two sold out shows at the Greek. Dubbed “Cinquanta,” the event spanned his career with crossover performances from A Perfect Circle and multimedia experiment Puscifer (his two side projects), special guests, and a resurrected version of the ‘90s cult space-rock outfit Failure, whose reunion occured largely at Maynard’s request.
Paul McCartney at Dodger Stadium
He’s a Beatle. He brought Beatles songs to Dodger Stadium for the first time since 1966. It was perfect.
Karen O at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
When she stepped on stage at Hollywood Forever, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs looked and sounded nothing like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There was no smeared lipstick, no glittery capes, no signature shriek, just a woman in an evening gown sharing the raw, heartbreaking songs she described as “the soundtrack to what was an ever continuing love crusade” from 2006-2010. Yet it worked in a way that was so pure and honest we couldn’t help but be moved.
Slash at the Troubadour
Slash helped Guitar Center Hollywood celebrate its 50th birthday with a week of club gigs on the Sunset Strip. Slash tore through his formidable catalog of arena rock classics like “Paradise City” and “Used to be Mine” along with brand new material from his latest solo record, World on Fire. It was a return to the spot where he and his top hat became the stuff of rock legend.
Fleetwood Mac at the Forum
Fleetwood Mac hasn’t sounded this good since, well, 1997 — the last time Christine McVie rounded out the band. Their tour last year, which commemorated the 35th anniversary and deluxe reissue of their seminal album Rumours, was formidable, but the return of McVie to the complete Rumours-era lineup means more layered harmonies and the return of classic tracks that bear her songwriting credit: “Everywhere,” “Say You Love Me,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Little Lies,” “Over My Head,” and the heartrending show-closer, “Songbird.”