The best Tampa Bay concerts of 2011 (Part 1): Lauryn Hill, Sleigh Bells, A Day To Remember and more

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December

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(Just as we did in 2009 and 2010, this week Soundcheck is reflecting on the greatest Tampa Bay concerts of 2011. All week various Soundcheck contributors will weigh in with their picks. First up: Soundcheck and tbt* features editor Jay Cridlin.)

Funny thing happened this year. In September, the band that played the greatest concert I ever saw — R.E.M. , back in 1999 — broke up. Exactly three days later, I saw a concert that topped it: the Music Midtown festival in Atlanta, with Coldplay, the Black Keys, Young the Giant, the Joy Formidable and more. Today, I can safely say THAT is my new Favorite Concert Ever. It was sonic and visual perfection on all points. And I don't care what y'all haterz say, I'm totally looking forward to Coldplay's upcoming show in Tampa in 2012.

But what about here on the home front? Tampa Bay was home to some phenomenal concerts in 2011. I caught my fair share of them. Here are five that stood head and shoulders above the pack (click each link for the full review).

Lauryn Hill (March 23, Ritz Ybor): I’m not an autograph guy. But when I saw Lauren Hill hobnobbing with fans following a rare, blazing set at the Ritz Ybor, I couldn’t resist having her sign my ticket stub. Because who knows if Hill will ever surface in these parts again, much less at such an intimate club? The exorbitant ticket price kept many away, but L.Boogie delivered a tense, visceral, thrilling set packed with solo and Fugees hits. When the house lights dropped for Ready Or Not? Chills. All night, it felt like anything could happen. Let’s hope it happens again someday soon.

A Day To Remember/Bring Me The Horizon (April 18, Jannus Live): Surging Ocala hardcore group A Day To Remember rose to new heights in 2011, including a headlining slot on the Warped Tour. They pulled no punches at this quasi-hometown show, bringing out everything from a giant hamster ball to a pink thong-wearing dude in a Darth Vader mask shooting a T-shirt cannon into the crowd. But the single most astonishing rock 'n’ roll moment I saw in 2011 came during the opening set, when Bring Me The Horizon guitarist Jona Weinhofen (above) surfed through the crowd, scampered past security and up into the tree in the center of the Jannus Live courtyard — all while continuing to play the band’s final song. That, gents, takes brass ones.

Sleigh Bells (April 29, State Theatre): The second Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss ripped into their unique blend of brain-shaking confectionary metal, all you wanted to do was pump your fist and bang your head. It was only after the show was finished that you began to scratch your head about just how short it was (only 45 minutes), and how much of the music was provided by a backing track (the only instrument onstage was Miller’s guitar, and sometimes even he ditched the stage, leaving Krauss alone onstage like this was American Idol or something). But the set itself was climax after climax after climax. Pure guilty-pleasure punk. When they come back to the Ritz Ybor on Feb. 4, don't miss 'em.

Brian Wilson (Aug. 6, Ruth Eckerd Hall): Wilson’s show at Ruth Eckerd Hall was one of the most moving musical experiences of my life, one of those nights that make you re-evaluate everything you think you know about music. Was it heartbreaking to see Wilson, a shell of his former self after decades of drug abuse and mental illness, shuffle on and offstage to half-sing the Beach Boys’ greatest hits? Yes, a little. (To be fair, his backing band was phenomenal.) But to witness the genius who composed God Only Knows actually sing those lyrics made famous by his late baby brother ... pass the Kleenex, please. Here's hoping the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary reunion tour comes to Tampa Bay.

Bush (Dec. 3, 97X Next Big Thing, 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre): Hey, I’m as surprised as you. I hadn't thought much about Bush since high school. But the British grungers blew away many of the younger, hipper bands on the bill at this year’s 97X Next Big Thing, blasting the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre with a generous array of hits that sounded as tight as ever. At one point, Gavin Rossdale sprinted through the crowd all the way up to the lawn of the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, where he was swarmed by fans. Not once did the band’s performance dip in energy. It was 100 percent sweat, sex and swagger.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cake (Jan. 15, Jannus Live), Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (March 4, State Theatre), The Crystal Method  (Identity Festival, Aug. 25, 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre), Steve Earle (Dec. 9, Orpheum), David Guetta/Pitbull (93.3 Jingle Ball, Dec. 11, St. Pete Times Forum), Skrillex (Dec. 16, Ritz Ybor).

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 3:12am]

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