Best Pop Concert of 2008: The Swell Season
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova -- The Swell Season -- brought their Oscar-winning ways to the Byham.
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The weak economy and $4-a-gallon gas prices seemed to have little effect on the number of shows that passed through Pittsburgh in 2008.
In fact, Billboard reports that the concert business grossed just under $4 billion worldwide in 2008, the most ever for a year and up almost 13 percent over last year.
Among the big acts on the road this year were Bon Jovi (the top-grossing concert tour), Van Halen and The Police, all of whom came here, and Metallica, Radiohead and Madonna, who passed us by.
Some of our best concerts were more intimate affairs and inspired pairings. Here is the Top 10 from what I saw:
1. The Swell Season (Byham, Sept. 21): This post-Oscar victory lap for the stars in the movie "Once" (which won for best original song) was a stunner, adding young Czech singer Marketa Irglova to the already potent band The Frames, led by Glen Hansard, who can busk with the best of them.
2. The Foo Fighters (Petersen Events Center, July 26): Dave Grohl and the Foos seemed to be find an extra gear or two in this blistering 2 1/2-hour set that came complete with an acoustic string set.
3. North American Music Union Festival (Aug. 8-9, SouthSide Works): Dylan disappointed at this well-run American Eagle bash, but the show-stealing Gnarls Barkley, the manic Raconteurs, the grungy Black Keys and stoner-heavy Black Mountain all had his back.
4. X (Rex Theatre, May 24): Could it be that the L.A. band made a deal with the devil? How else to explain such punk-rock fury past the age of 50? Billy Zoom, you're my idol.
5. David Byrne (Nov. 7, Carnegie Music Hall): Former Talking Head debuted the new Byrne-Eno songs and burned down the house with a joyful run of old faves as three dancers leapt about the stage.
6. New York Dolls/Avett Brothers (Three Rivers Arts Festival): Cheating on this one, as these two headliners were a few days apart at TRAF. David Johnanson and the Dolls raged hilariously like it was 1974, and the Avetts brewed up a storm with their sibling hillbilly fury.
7. New Pornographers/Okkervil River (April 12, Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead): Sweet indie double bill headlined by the Fleetwood Mac of power-pop (with the mesmerizing Neko Case in tow) and opened by Okkervil, whose Will Sheff threw himself around the stage in service of his literate songs.
8. The Eagles (Mellon Arena, Nov. 21): Glenn Frey joked that it was the "assisted-living tour," but we should all be in such good shape in our 60s. The boys of summer warmed a chilly night with pristine harmonies, flawless musicianship, timeless hits and a wacky sense of fun.
9. The Hold Steady/Drive-By Truckers (Carnegie Music Hall Library of Homestead, Nov. 12): The sound almost sabotaged by this inspired billing between the Brooklyn post-punkers and the Southern rockers, but the good vibe and the combined encore prevailed in the end.
10. Roger McGuinn (Carnegie Lecture Hall, March 29): The lead Byrd put on a guitar clinic and took his fans "Eight Miles High" in this transcendent solo set.
First Published January 1, 2009 12:00 am