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Top Ten Transcendent Moments At LA Rock Gigs In 2010

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Photo by Simon Cardoza for LAist.
1. Calexico - Hollywood Bowl
When the band finished their version of Love’s “Along Again Or” aided by a mariachi horn section, I was pretty sure we’d seen the highlight of an already strong show. Then, front man Joey Burns called out “Here’s one for D. Boon!,” and burst into the Minutemen classic “Corona.” taking a gringo punk rock imagining of Mexican music and sending it straight back to Mexico with a straight face. It was perhaps the finest only-in-LA moment of the year.2. Roger Waters’ The Wall - Staples Center
While the album’s big set pieces were suitably grandiose, the heaviest moment came with the mass sing-along of “Bring The Boys Back Home,” as the bricks in the wall were replaced by images of soldiers killed in combat. Waters’ underlying anti-war message, less overt in the original LP, was brought suddenly, unavoidably into focus.

3. Ornette Coleman Quartet - Royce Hall
The eighty-year old saxophonist remains a force of nature, and his two-bass quartet was devastating at Royce, never more so than on their version of “Jordan,” during which the four musicians seemed to be communicating by telepathy.

4. Stevie Wonder - Nokia Theater
This year’s annual House Full Of Toys holiday pageant suffered somewhat from an overly long guest list, and an apparent deregulation of extended speechmaking, resulting in the headlining Wonder having to cut his own set short and medley-ize most of the songs he did play. But early in the night, he cut loose on a glorious reading of “Ave Maria” that was bright and pure enough to lift the unevenly paced program out of its doldrums and make this list.

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5. Devo - Hollywood Park
The band’s 2010 “re-branding” effort was a surprising success, producing their first good album in over twenty-five years and a new set of outfits that inspired roll-on-the-ground laughter. Their show’s best moment, as usual, came with the mass pogo that climaxes “Jocko Homo,” which still stands alongside “Sonic Reducer” as one of Ohio Rock’s great mission statements.

6. Roky Erickson and Okkervil River - Eagle Rock Center For The Arts
The sight of Roky Erickson singing his tales of demons and vampires to an audience of wide-eyed youngsters at an ice cream party where the kids outnumbered the adults is sure to go down in my memory banks as one of the unlikeliest, coolest things I will ever witness. The grown ups in the room got just as wide-eyed with the opening chords of “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” and that elation seemed to propel Roky, pulling him further out of his shell, and inspiring his Okkervil bandmates to pound on it harder.

7. Paul McCartney - Hollywood Bowl
The Cute One’s phenomenal three-hour gig had memorable moments to spare, from the cool, groovy thrills of Wings rarities like “Let Me Roll It” and “Mrs. Vandebilt” to the expected monumental Beatle sing-alongs “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” . But my favorite was “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, accompanied by the visual of hundreds of little kids dancing uncontrollably on their chairs and in the aisles. That’s a vision of cuteness no special effects guy will ever be able to top.

8. Public Image Ltd - Club Nokia
I approached this one with caution - was there any reason to believe a PiL reunion would be even as satisfying as the Pistols’ was? Although two the supporting players came from the band’s less-beloved late-eighties period, and the bass player seemingly comes out of nowhere, the end result was pretty potent. It was early in the set with “Poptones” that the PiL concept was most beautifully executed: a wobbly, low-end groove overlaid with dissonant droning chords and a strident vocal competing with the guitar for the melody.

9. John Cale - UCLA Royce Hall
Cale brought his 1973 album Paris: 1919 full circle, getting the members of UCLA Philharmonia to join him on stage as they did for the original recording. While the whole piece was rendered near flawlessly, the title track, with its descending melody grandly rendered on the low end strings, raised hairs on necks.

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10. Buzzcocks - Club Nokia
At the end of their completely triumphant set comprising the albums Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites, the band blasted out the closing instrumental “Late For the Train” with such blinding ferocity that even following some of the most enduring power-pop nuggets of all time, this easily overlooked deep-album cut turned into a thing of surprising power.

Honorable mention to Os Mutantes, for the song they did toward the end of their Music Box show that sounded almost exactly like Machine Head-era Deep Purple, to Rush for their emergence as real comic talents in the viedo segments that began and ended their show, and to the Specials for the atomic blast of energy they released in Club Nokia when they opened their set with "Do The Dog.".