I 'll be honest: In 2010, none of the concerts I reviewed passed the coveted "notebook test." That's when I forget I'm on the job, forget that deadline is looming like a befanged beast — forget the grimy reporter's notebook in my hand — and get carried away like any other fan. Granted, that's a rare occasion, but it happened at a three-hour Springsteen revival the year before. Transcendent, I tell you. ¶ That said, in recalling my year out on the job, I remember a lot of really good performances, showmen (and women) adept at giving fans their money's worth. ¶ So, in chronological order, here are my 10 top shows from 2010, complete with juicy excerpt from my review and a flick-your-Bic moment that made it special.
Black Eyed Peas at the St. Pete Times Forum, Feb. 10
"Despite being the nutritional equivalent of a sack of Ring Dings, the club-jumpin', hump-bumpin' Black Eyed Peas are actually healthy for you. The L.A.-born quartet offers sugar-spun escapism, songs serving the id, the caboose, no thinking required. Use your brain, and the deal is off."
The Bic Moment: Will.i.am freestyling rhymes using only real-time texts from fans, the dizzied height of improv.
Taylor Swift . at the St. Pete Times Forum, March 4
"In the very first show of her very first headlining tour of the United States, pop princess Taylor Swift could have honked a tuba with her left nostril for two hours and the sold-out crowd of teen girls still would have shrieked and swooned as if the St. Pete Times Forum were handing out free unicorns at the door."
The Bic Moment: Opener You Belong With Me started with Swift wearing a dorktastic band outfit — and ended with her undulating in a sassy silver dress.
Robert Plant at Ruth Eckerd Hall, July 30
"Great artists adapt, and that's what the long-gone-solo star has done, embracing roots-rock, gospel and Americana grit in a late-career rebirth that has won Plant new fans, shiny awards and relevance as a singer who's more than libido and looks (although truth be told, his hair remains AWESOME)."
The Bic Moment: Psychobilly guitarist Buddy Miller sending shivers of reverb through a down-home Houses of the Holy.
Natalie Merchant at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Aug. 24
"Merchant is 46 now, decades removed from her youthful twirl as the head of 10,000 Maniacs. But her voice, a stunning gift that pours like some precious liquid metal, can still swell to magnificent, otherworldly moments. In other words, it's easy to overlook her more cloying Natalieness."
The Bic Moment: An acoustic take on Hey Jack Kerouac helped the crowd overlook her constant rips on our beloved Columbia Restaurant. Free the 1905 Salad!
Jack Johnson at 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, Aug. 25
"JJ is not about rocking you out, but rocking you into a smiling stupor. His subtle brand of somnambulism is not nearly as easy to create as it sounds. He taps into a highly singable, Schoolhouse Rock vibe, the jazzy bounce of his tunes in step with the steady sway of a hammock."
The Bic Moment: The opening Banana Pancakes, a strummy charmer about lazy-day love.
John Mayer at 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, Sept. 10
"John Mayer has a slow hand and loose lips. He's Eric Clapton for the TMZ Age, a guitar virtuoso who rises and falls on his torpedo compulsion to act on instinct, brilliant solos and blabbing about exes included. Dude's a train wreck but a self-aware one, his talent and instability a constant can't-look-away duel for center stage."
The Bic Moment: Johnny's take on Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile, which helped dilute his tender-heart pop fluff.
Neil Young at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Sept. 22
"In front of 2,180 well-heeled hippies vociferously ecstatic at seeing a major figure on such a small stage, the solo Young was intense and brooding, but also crowd-pleasing and playful, mixing in sing-along hits with buzzy political cuts from new album Le Noise. It was a 90-minute who's-who of Young personae."
The Bic Moment: After the Gold Rush played on a creaky pump organ. Chilling.
Bob Dylan at the USF Sun Dome, Oct. 7
"Despite his taciturn rep and reluctance to smile — and, of course, his standoffish bullfrog croak — Dylan has aged into a genial performer. Don't believe the cliche rips on him. Credit his age or the fact that he has nothing more to prove, but the Prickly Poet Laureate throws a likable, rousing gig nowadays."
The Bic Moment: A gentle spoken-word reading of Simple Twist of Fate — like Vincent Price reciting a love letter. Plus having Charlie Sexton on guitar was a stroke of sexy, shredding genius.
Vampire Weekend at Jannus Live, Oct. 12
"As NYC's Vampire Weekend vigorously proved at a sold-out Jannus Live, the band's hop-hop-shuffle culture clash is neither a gag nor is it gag-inducing. It's pretty dang fun actually, tony waterfront references, grammatical fetishes and Congolese soukous rhythms included."
The Bic Moment: The frenetic new-math beat of Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.
MGMT at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Oct. 28
"Led by the Scrabble-liciously named Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, the Brooklyn-based quintet excels at kitchen-sink psychedelicism, blending then and now with a splash of what-the-heck. MGMT's music makes no sense — and all the sense in the world."
The Bic Moment: When MGMT played the loopy, goofy Time to Pretend, the staid concert hall finally became an everybody-up-and-at-it indie club. I almost dropped my notebook.
Sean Daly can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life column runs every Sunday in Floridian.