Part 4: Best Moves


From the shimmy shake to the backwards bicycle kick, great musicians own a room using way more than words. Here’s to this year’s best moves — we’ll be practicing them in the mirror.

1. Manu Chao

7 August 2006: Brooklyn, NY

During Chao’s encore, two fans stormed the stage and began closing in on the singer. Security followed, but Chao quickly called them off. Ever the pacifist and people’s prophet, he embraced the fans and received instant cheers from the audience. But it was Chao’s messianic control over fan and guard alike that was most striking — he’d diffused a potentially volatile situation with a few cool hand waves and some sideways glances — all without missing a note. Shiver-inducing. (RH)

2. Diamanda Galas

14 February 2006: New York, NY

Dressed in trademark black, Galas begins to hammer a round of stark, unevenly placed tones like she’s running blues scales through John Cage’s piano. And then, as the tune’s protagonist expresses a particularly bitter sentiment, she throws her voice into deep-throated blues-man barks only to skip three octaves in a sudden operatic shriek (Yoko Ono could only dream of pipes like this!). Screaming isn’t really the word for what she does: she transports banshee cries from some dark realm of the soul. I’d flash devil horns, but I’m too stupefied to speak. (AP)

3. Acquiesce

20 March 2006: New York, NY

Townshend windmilled, Berry duck-walked, and Hendrix played with his teeth. Now, lead guitarist Dan “Lil Angus” Sweeney joins the fray by putting his SG on his head and spinning ’round like a corkscrew, while at the same time laying down the tastiest power chords New York has ever seen. For the record, Sweeney’s trademark move is known as “the ‘copter” but “upside-down pile driver” would be equally apt. (AW)

4. Jarvis Cocker

15 November 2006: London, UK

When Jarvis Cocker rolled through town, we got the full array of high kicks, twitchy catalog model poses, and very rude gestures made with his index finger… He even bent over and smacked his own arse whilst singing the line, “Kiss him where the sun don’t shine” — oh yes, it’s good to have him back. (ML)

5. Ninja High School

23 September 2006: Ottawa, ON

Toronto’s purveyors of “positive dance rap” took the tiny Deckuff stage carrying an iPod packed with retro beats, a battery of gnarly rhymes, and a repertoire of spasmatic, semi-choreographed dance moves. For 30 minutes, they proceeded to aerobically rock the club as they swung from the rafters, wrestled with each other, and hurled themselves into the audience. (CC)


The loudmouths may own the stage, but it’s the AV dorks that really run it. From wham-bam light shows to gigantic inflatable bubbles, these drama dorks turned normal stages into vivacious Vegas revues.

1. Beck

17 June 2006: Manchester, TN

Beck was the only artist at Bonnaroo who made full use of the large, high-quality screens that framed each side of the stage. He and his band had marionettes of themselves made for the show, and the production team bounced back and forth between the live Beck and the wooden Beck — the two are incredibly in sync. Later, his backup band sat down to a dinner table as one of the dancers/beatboxers served a meal. A few songs later, Beck’s backup band was satiated and wanted back in, so they begin banging their utensils on the place settings at their disposal, creating a wild, percussive exit. (EC)

2. The Rolling Stones

1 October 2006: Wichita, KS

Leave it to the one band that should be cold as ice to prove that histrionics still matter. The role of Lucifer was excellently and majestically assumed by the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger on this Wichita date. Complete with fire and brimstone (extravagant pyrotechnics), panderly, gaudy, red coat and hat, and an unmatched demoniac energy, the band turned “Sympathy for the Devil” into Shakespearean drama — only Lady Macbeth was missing. Jagger, prancing around and acting like an urban, vulpine devil, will never be bettered. (WF)

3. The Flaming Lips

6 November 2006: Manchester, UK

Their entire stage set-up might resemble a cross between a mad scientist’s laboratory and a five year old’s birthday party — but even alongside nun puppets, giant hands, and glitter guns, the inflatable space ball that Wayne Coyne squeezed inside before he rolled out over the audience’s heads, was utterly ridiculous — and ace beyond belief. (ML)


27 April 2006: Leeds, UK

Yes, yes they do. In fact, they like trains so much that they all dress up like train directors, showcase old Super 8 images of trains on a projector during the show, and sing about blood on the tracks (in homage to English railroad history of course). Plus, they produce the best apocalyptic post-rock in the UK. Choo choo! (SS)

5. Tiny Dancers

10 January 2006: Sheffield, UK

In front of a crowd of Pete-worshipping, tight-trousered Babyshambles fans, country popsters Tiny Dancers wandered onto a stage adorned with balloons, broken TV’s, and fairy lights — and were promptly booed back off it. Thankfully not before they’d got to play some sparkling, psychedelic, stomping pop anthems. Brilliant. (ML)

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