From Lil Wayne's on-stage clowning and Katy Perry's cooing, to a perspiration-and-PBR soaked reunion of Planes Mistaken for Stars, and even those teenage, Danish punks Iceage melting the audience at Rhinoceropolis, the summer of 2011 was as good as any for live music in Denver. On this Labor Day weekend, music editor Dave Herrera has chosen these reviews written by Backbeat scribes. (For a full directory of live reviews, please consult our Last Night section.)
Now, onto fall!
10. Denver Afterdark travelogue: Safe Boating, Gauntlet Hair, Force Publique and more "Gauntlet Hair offered up a dreamy set of music that sounded thicker and more dynamic than ever, likely due to the addition of Matt Daniels of Vitamins on bass. Although Craig Nice's kick drum pedal kept failing, it did not detract from the set where it was clear these guys were giving their all in a way that didn't seem as obvious on previous occasions."
9. 2011 Westword Music Showcase: Backbeat scribes' travelogues "By the time Le Divorce started, the venue was packed full of bodies sweating out a thick stench of a day full of booze. For its part, Le Divorce brought an energetic set that had people in the crowd bouncing around and even singing along to a few tunes. The band sounded solid, clearly reveling in the energy the crowd was putting out, which was, to say the least, exploding a bit."
8. Review: Iceage at Rhinoceropolis, 8/2/11 "What the audience gave to Iceage, the band returned aplenty as singer Elias Rønnenfelt and the rest of the band seemed to channel the heightened emotional energy of the room, with Rønnenfelt, in the end, performing the final two songs without his guitar, giving himself up to the audience and at one point being lifted into the air, crowd surfing perhaps without consciously doing so."
7. Review: Peter Gabriel at Red Rocks, 6/13/01 "The rain started to fall in earnest, and lyrics like 'Be afraid of the cold' and "After me comes the flood" were punctuated with peals of thunder and the dance of lighting bolts on the distant horizon."
6. Review: Planes Mistaken For Stars at 3 Kings, with Fire Drills and Kingdom of Magic, 8/13/11 "Planes wasn't kidding when it was announced this would be a reunion show. No, Jamie Drier didn't take the stage but a good chunk of the beginning of the set had Aaron Wise on bass. And it was Wise who started off the show with, "Alright, motherfuckers, here's an oldie but a goodie." Then the band erupted into 'Copper and Stars.'"
5. Review: Lil Wayne at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre, 8/30/11 At one moment, Weezy got very serious and talked about a song he wrote while he was very emotional and even got a little teary-eyed: The hilarity is that the track he was referencing was 'Every Girl in the World,' and he sang it with comical emotion.
4. Review: Against Me! at the Warped Tour, 8/5/11 On this day, Against Me! showed the passion earned from years of sweating it out on the road and displayed it for the festival crowd. The Gainesville foursome started its set with the song 'Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,' off 2002's Reinventing Axl Rose, its debut full-length. The song, about drinking in memory of better times and better friends, has been the band's opener for much of their career, and the energy displayed right out of the gate was sincere and compelling.
3. Review: Katy Perry at 1STBANK Center, 7/26/11 "Anytime Perry spoke to her audience directly, she seemed to perfectly channel Gwen Stefani's girly greatness, and there was a lot of this action through the course of the evening -- like right before her lounge-ish version of 'I Kissed a Girl.' Miss Katy took great care in cooing at her fervent audience, telling them stories and giggling along."
2. Review: Sade and John Legend at the Pepsi Center, 8/11/11 "Over the course of the set, which included obvious favorites like 'Smooth Operator,' 'The Sweetest Taboo,' 'No Ordinary Love' and 'By Your Side,' alongside a number of cuts from Soldier of Love, her latest effort, Sade offered up steady handed, expert renditions of the songs, while also switching them up enough here and there to keep things engaging, particularly on songs like 'No Ordinary Love,' which benefited from notably edgier guitar work and "Smooth Operator," whose signature sax line varied slightly from the version that's been burned into the brain from years of continuous exposure."
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1. Review: Sleigh Bells at the Ogden, 6/4/11 "Taking the stage just before 11 to the strains of 'Iron Man,' the duo of Alexis Kraus and Derek Miller completely mopped the floor with everybody and were dunzo by 11:30. No encore. No bullshit. In, out and done. Buh-bye. See ya."