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A look back at the concerts that made a mark in 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thanks to visits by acts who were either (A) of great magnitude or (B) this close to blowing up, 2010 was an interesting year for concerts in Youngstown.

We got to see rock legend Elton John, still in his prime, and hip-hopper Wiz Khalifa just moments before his moonshot.

And don’t forget about superstar country duo Montgomery Gentry and the inimitable Snoop Dogg. They also helped rescue an otherwise ho-hum year that was probably affected by the concert industry’s recessionary slump.

Here’s a look at the year’s best concerts:

1. Elton John, May 1, Covelli Centre: Every seat had a body in it, including — for the first time — those behind the stage. But this wasn’t just the biggest concert of the year; it was also the best. Sitting center-stage behind a grand piano, Sir Elton and his fine band played a nearly-three hour set of his greatest hits, spanning decades.

2. Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie, Oct. 9, Covelli Centre: Why can’t all concerts be this cool? Every song was a little piece of horror theater. Alice Cooper came out first and served as leading man in a series of one-acts replete with props and supporting cast. He’s been doing this shtick for decades, but it never gets old. Rob Zombie’s oeuvre can’t touch that of Cooper, who is a Rock Hall of Famer. His songs have neither the great hooks nor the diversity (i.e., they all sound the same). But Zombie can lead the masses in his own gruesome way. What he lacks in the music department, he makes up for with giant robots and fire.

3. Snoop Dogg, June 11, Club Gossip: Like Elton, this concert also had that “I can’t believe he’s playing Youngstown” vibe. Actually, it seemed more like LA on this sweltering night, with all the stiletto heels and gin and juice. And Snoop showed ’em how it’s done, turning in the best hip-hop show this city has ever seen. Backed by a drummer and bass player, the Doggfather played for his crowd, not to it.

4. Shinedown, Feb. 2, Covelli Centre: I didn’t want to go to this show because I had seen this relentlessly touring band so many times before. But I was glad I did. The tour marked the band’s graduation to headliner status, and Shinedown seized the opportunity. All those shows and all those singles have given frontman Brent Smith an arena-rock stage presence. He commanded all eyes, imbuing every movement with meaning. The show got off to an explosive start, with the band — silhouetted behind a screen — playing the opening riffs of “The Sound of Madness.” When the curtain was pulled, Smith and company appeared, and it was on.

5. Wiz Khalifa, Aug. 14, Covelli Centre: The Pittsburgh rapper recently cracked the iTunes top-10 singles chart with “Black and Yellow.” Too bad a rain storm forced this show indoors. It would’ve been so much better outside.

Noteworthy stuff: B.o.B.’s Aug. 11 show at Club Gossip almost came undone just before it ended when a power outage killed the lights and sound halfway through “Nothin’ On You.” But the crowd had game. Thinking as one —and barely missing a beat — it raised its voices and finished the song in the dark.

Beeghly Center, the basketball arena at Youngstown State University, was very effectively transformed into a theater for Third Eye Blind, which covered its hits and some of its new material before a mostly-student crowd of 2,500 on April 29.

The ’80s look was back for Rick Springfield’s Aug. 13 outdoor concert behind Covelli Centre. His largely female fan base dug out their pink leggings and off-shoulder shirts, and teased their hair. The “Jessie’s Girl” rocker (who still looks like he’s 30), has that effect on women.

Bryan Adams was slightly more serious than Springfield in the ’80s, and his acoustic concert Dec. 2 at Powers Auditorium was among the year’s most arresting shows.

Country stars Gretchen Wilson and Dierks Bentley teamed up to pack the grandstand at the Canfield Fair. Wilson’s band did a super-long medley that included just about every rock anthem from the past four decades. I’m still not sure why.

Worth a mention: Breaking Benjamin, a band that is suitable for all occasions, gave a dependably satisfying show March 18 at Covelli; Good ol’ Donnie Iris came to Club Gossip on July 15 to promote his new beer and wound up playing a full concert; American Bang was raw and real in their Aug. 10 set outdoors at Covelli.