2011 was a great year for concerts. The staff here at Rock Show Critique seen over 80 shows combined, making it a real tough time trying to compile this list. After much deliberating, we tell you about each choice and list some of the highlights of what we feel were the best shows we saw in 2011.
CMAC PAC- Canandaigua, NY
Despite ex-singer Jon Anderson’s absence, Yes put on a solid show with replacement Benoit David. The tour also brought keyboardist Geoffrey Downes back to the fold after a 30-year absence. But Styx had stolen the thunder that evening with stirring renditions of “Crystal Ball” and “Man In The Wilderness”. Tommy Shaw and Company continue to put on quality shows every year.
Starship featuring Mickey Thomas
Bears Den- Seneca Niagara Casino- Niagara Falls, NY
Not only did Mickey focus on the 1980’s hits from Starship that fans are accustomed to, he also dug deep into the Airplane/Starship back catalog and dug out a medley featuring “White Rabbit/Miracles/Count On Me/Somebody To Love”. For good measure he even belted out the Elvin Bishop classic “Fooled Around And Fell In Love”.
Seneca Allegany Event Center- Salamanca, NY
At 72 years of age, despite some health scares a few years back, Lightfoot has recently put on some of the best shows of his career. This night was no exception as some of the highlights included “Carefree HIghway”, “Beautiful” and “Cotton Jenny”.
Darien Lake PAC- Darien Center, NY
This triple-bill was a fans dream. All three bands put on very good sets. NIght Ranger opened the show and delivered a strong set. Foreigner followed up with a solid set of their own. Journey with Arnel Pineda at the mic showed why they were the headliner with a stunning set featuring highlights of “Who’s Crying Now”, “Lights” and “Ask The Lonely”. They even treated the crowd to “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin” for only the 2nd time up to this point of the tour.
Goo Goo Dolls
Darien Lake PAC- Darien Center, NY
The Goos returned home for their annual summer show and the boys did not disappoint. Although they were still touring in support of Something For The Rest Of Us, the show seemed much better than last years with an improved light show and upgrade in the set list. Several gems rarely played these days such as “Fallen Down”, “Cuz Your Gone” and “Lucky Star” made the show very enjoyable especially for the fans that go way back to the Superstar Carwash era.
L ‘Olympia- Montreal, QC
Marillion once again called Montreal home for their “Marillion Weekend 2011”. The band played for three consecutive nights and on each night a different set was played. The first night Marillion celebrated the 20th year for their 1991 release “Holidays In Eden” by playing the album in its entirety including b-sides and a few bonus cuts. Opening cut “Splintering Heart” was followed by a thunderous ovation that seemed to catch the band by surprise.
The second night featured Marillion A-Z . The band would play one song per letter (where it could). Highlights of the show featured amazing versions of “Gazpacho”, “The Release” and “Sugar Mice”. It did allow for the band to play several songs they very rarely play in concert anymore.
The third and final night audience may have witnessed one of the top 5 concert moments of all-time. The concept of this night was entitled “The glow must go on”. Everyone was given one glow stick and when asked by singer Steve Hogarth they used them to vote on a choice of 2 songs. After an astonishing “Neverland”, the band did the seldom played “Ocean Cloud”, followed by “The Great Escape” and concluding with their classic “Easter”. What a fantastic ending as the house lights came on and the many fans made their way to the exits. Then about five minutes later the band came back out and told them to turn the lights off. Once the lights are down the band immediately tears into the fifteen minute plus opus “This Strange Engine”. I do not know how the band had the energy to do this easily pushing the concert past the 3 hour mark. How does one explain the unbelievable vibe that you could feel. The Montreal crowd always makes the band proud and this weekend was no exception.
Sound Academy- Toronto, Ontario
Ric Ocasek once vowed to never tour again. Thankfully he changed his mind and the Cars with Ric did a short run of dates for the first time since they disbanded in 1987. The band not only played some of their best known classics, but also played six from their new album “Move Like This” all in a business like fashion. The band honored the late Benjamin Orr their former bandmate who passed away in 2000 with an arousing “Let’s Go” a song originally sung by Orr. This show was great for fans who never got the chance to see the cars back in the day.
#3 Pearl Jam
Copps Coliseum- Hamilton, Ontario
What can be said about a Pearl Jam show that hasn’t already been said? Not much. One thing to expect at a Pearl Jam show is the unexpected. You never get the same set list twice and may even get a song the band had played only a handful of times. The high points featured opening with “Given To Fly” and continuing with classics such as, “Black”, “Corderoy”, “Not For You”. Eddie Vedder also paid tribute to the late Johnny Ramone, who had passed away seven years ago to the day with a cover of the Ramones “I Remember You”.
Artpark- Lewiston, NY
This show marked the bands first since the horrific stage collapse that took place at the Ottawa Bluesfest two days prior. Several instruments were damaged or lost, luckily the band had just made it off the stage before it toppled down due to a storm. One would think the band would be jittery, not Cheap Trick. The boys from Chicago put on a show that under normal circumstances would seem good. But they played with such conviction, almost as if they had a new lease on life and delivered a show that anyone in the crowd will surely never forget.
Turning Stone Casino- Verona, NY
It is not that often that one gets to see Olivia in concert. She tours but not with any regularity. So when this show was announced there was no doubt that The Casino Showroom would be filled to capacity. Olivia treated the crowd to a complete show that spanned her entire career. The biggest highlight to me was the country medley. She looked and sounded absolutely fantastic and can tell she was truly enjoying herself. The set was filled with her best songs. One after another they were dealt out to the appreciative crowd. “Have You Never Been Mellow”, “Magic”, “Xanadu”, “Sam”, “Summer Nights” and closing with encore “I Honestly Love You” all made it an extremely enjoyable evening for all.