Best of 2011: Kirsten Ferguson’s Top 10 Live Cover Songs
10. Knyghts of Fuzz with Tim Livingston, “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” Valentine’s Music Hall, 11/4/11. Guest frontman Tim Livingston crawled across the checkered Valentine’s floor, wolf-like, during this electrifying version of the Stooges classic – a song that never fails to stir howling-at-the-moon type behavior.
9. Wu Tang Clan, “Family Reunion,” Northern Lights, 1/13/11. Wu Tang didn’t have a full family reunion – pivotal member RZA was off making a kung-fu movie – but they acted like it when they played locally early in the year; even without ODB, the indispensible Method Man picked up the slack on tunes like this O’Jays classic.
8. New York Dolls, “Pills,” Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 7/23/11. It wasn’t unexpected for the Dolls, on an incongruous bill with ‘80s hair-metalers Poison and Motley Crue, to trot out one of the songs from their milestone debut 1973 album. Still, once they played this pill-popping Bo Diddley classic, everything about the night got better.
7. Andrew Bird, “So Much Wine,” Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 10/13/11. Bird has a thing for covering the Handsome Family. You could see why here. What a song, capturing all the resigned, comic, harrowing fatalism of loving a very bad drunk. Bird’s spare violin-and-voice treatment accentuated every vivid word.
6. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, “Surfin’ Bird,” Green River Festival, 7/16/11. In genius fashion, TV show “Family Guy” took the catchiness of this garage classic by the Trashmen and rendered it bat-shit insane. But Black Joe Lewis reclaimed this song as it was meant to be played: fast, fuzzy, loud and furious.
5. Robyn Hitchcock, “River Man,” MASS MoCA, 3/12/11. Hitchcock played all covers of folksy ‘60s tunes – from Bob Dylan to early Pink Floyd – when he accompanied Joe Boyd on a reading from his “White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s” memoir. But of all the songs, Hitchcock seemed best suited, eerily so, to capturing the beautiful depth, sensitivity and psychedelic flourishes of songwriter Nick Drake.
4. TV on the Radio, “Waiting Room,” Skidmore College, 10/7/11. There might be a formula somewhere that governs how long a band has to wait before covering another band’s classic from the not-too-distant past, but Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” is over two decades old now. Even so, a gym full of college kids younger than the song itself went nuts over this.
3. Shonen Knife, “Pinhead,” Valentine’s, 11/20/11. Really, I could have picked any of the seven Ramones songs from Shonen Knife’s encore, when they came back out at Valentine’s in black leather jackets as the Osaka Ramones to toast their punk forebears, but they closed the night with “Pinhead” in gabba-gabba-heying, fist-raising glory.
2. Wilco with Neil Finn, “I Got You,” MASS MoCA, 6/24/11. Despite the deluge of rain on the first night of the Solid Sound Festival, Wilco ended their headlining set on a euphoric note, joined by Neil Finn (whose band Pajama Club played earlier) on this new wave classic by Finn’s old band Split Enz as word spread excitedly through the crowd that gay marriage had passed in New York.
1. The Feelies, “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars),” MASS MoCA, 11/11/11. The Feelies performed three encores of pretty amazing covers during their MASS MoCA show, from the Beatles’ “She Said She Said” to the Stones’ “Rocks Off,” but hearing them play this already-nostalgic tune from the recently-retired R.E.M.’s very early (and best) period just about killed me.
by Kirsten Ferguson, Nippertown contributor
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