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2010: Performances of the year

Published December 26. 2010 4:00AM   Updated December 26. 2010 4:20AM
Lady Gaga

From the casinos to Hartford and Boston and beyond, our reviewers saw and heard it all this year. Here's their favorite live musical performances:

Going Gaga

After Lady Gaga cancelled her January concerts at Mohegan Sun and a few other venues because of exhaustion and dehydration (and then, suspiciously, turned up right after cancelling those shows looking just fine on Oprah), I swore she was dead to me. Dead, I tell you! But I totally folded. I couldn't help it - I felt compelled to see what was arguably the tour of the year when it hit the XL Center in September. The concert was loony fun - flaming pianos! flaming bras! crazed fans dressed like Gaga! Most important, though, is that Gaga's dance-happy songs are simply irresistible.

- Kristina Dorsey

Death made it

The fifth I AM Festival was perhaps the best one yet, with Mates of State, Darlings and We Are Scientists all rocking the New London Waterfront. But O'Death's country-noir earned top marks; mouths were gaping as the band galloped through their set.

- Stephen Chupaska

Back at the House

On tour for their "Intriguer" CD, Crowded House's show on July 17 at the House of Blues in Boston was a triumph of wit, execution and catalog. Neil Finn is a songwriting god, and the whole band are naturally wonderful performers.

- Rick Koster

Mayhem and Masterworks

Pianist Jeremy Denk is one of a kind ... as a thinker, an artist and a communicator. He seems to have some sort of direct psychic link to Charles Ives (who was, after all, a transcendentalist) and the ability to elevate Ives' work to the status it deserves, through his perceptions of its enharmonic architecture and through his athletic technique. In May, Denk was joined at Musical Masterworks in Old Lyme by cellist Edward Arron and violinist Yosuke Kawasaki for a riotous performance of Ives' 1904 Piano Trio that was about as much fun as anyone can have at a chamber music concert.

- Milton Moore

Idol-ing

You never know how an "American Idol" career is going to go once the singer is released back into the real world. Even the glam-tastic Adam Lambert stumbled a bit, with his look-how-edgy-I-can-be! appearance at the American Music Awards. But you can't keep a good performer down, and Lambert's June concert at MGM Grand at Foxwoods proved that, with his supersonic voice and ingratiating stage presence, he should be around for the long haul.

- Kristina Dorsey

Englishmen in Boston

It's total cliché but, British folk rock always feel right in Boston. The Mumford and Sons crowd at Middle East could out-fist pump a Dropkick Murphys crowd, I'm sure.

- Stephen Chupaska

Small was beautiful

Music Director Toshi Shimada has led the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra into a new realm of artistry, but no 2010 performance was more memorable than one of the smallest in scale: the luminous performance of the Schumann cello concerto, featuring soloist Ole Akahoshi, in March. The slow middle section was one of those intensely moving moments so intimate that the audience felt like eavesdroppers, the gentle musical message so fragile and exposed as Akahoshi closed his eyes and seemed to fall into a private reverie in Schumann's bittersweet lyricism. When the sound of cello principal Christine Coyle emerged from the section to join Akahoshi for a few measures of duet, the effect was spellbinding.

- Milton Moore

Whale of a Good Time

The year's coolest local show had to be the First Annual Whalie Awards, May 29, in the Hygienic Art Park in New London. All the best of our scene rolled into one giddy and fun package.

- Rick Koster

Most valuable player

Actually, she's a singer, but Lithuanian soprano Jurate Švedaite has been the rock upon which the remarkably successful Connecticut Lyric opera has been built. This company, which has gone from start-up to stagings in four state cities, has featured her as prima donna in a wide range of roles, from Mimi in "La Boheme" to Tatiana in "Eugene Onegin" to Violetta in "La Traviata" to this year's Pamina in "The Magic Flute." Whether the role is mainly lyric or mainly spinto, she has commanded the stage here. And now, her advanced instruction of aspiring singers at Connecticut College and the Thames Valley Music School is cultivating a crop of voices that are populating the CLO's casts and elevating its chorus to full voice.

- Milton Moore

The Baron in the Tree

It's true. I sound like a broken record. (Remember "records"? The phrase refers to when a "record" would get scratched and cause the needle to skip so the same section played over and over.)

Nonetheless: The Lovely Bride and I saw Porcupine Tree three times on their tour for "The Incident," and they not only remain my favorite band in the world - in performance and on recording - but they just get better and better. Also, over the course of the last few years, they've gone from headlining tiny recital halls at Berklee School of Music to selling out Radio City Music Hall, which they did Sept. 24 in one of the most insanely great concerts I've ever seen.

The point is, we're not the only ones "getting it." Their demographic has gone from almost exclusively Old Weirdos like myself to across-the-board enthusiasts including, perhaps most surprisingly, female Young Persons who know the words to all the material. The Radio City show was an All-Timer.

- Rick Koster

Hootie who?

Brad Paisley was the headliner at Mohegan Sun, but Darius Rucker almost showed him up as an opening act. Rucker melded his country hits with slightly but coolly altered versions of his Hootie-and-the-Blowfish songs. Boy, did Rucker seem to having a great time, and that sense of joy was infectious.

- Kristina Dorsey

Summer in the city

Ever had one of those perfect, warm, humming summer evenings in New York? I did. My friend brought me a cold beer, some smiling attractive people walked by, then The National opened with "Runaway."

- Stephen Chupaska

Fun in the sun

The Newport Folk Festival is a perfect way to spend a summer day or two. Fort Adams State Park is ridiculously scenic - a perfect August locale, overlooking Newport Harbor - and the music provides the sonic equivalent of a great, varied landscape. Over the course of one day, I saw everyone from Andrew Bird to Jim Jones from My Morning Jacket to John Prine.

- Kristina Dorsey

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