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Concert Reviews:
Metallica, Dua Lipa, Detroit Jazz Fest among favorite livestreams 2020

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, December 28, 2020

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There were so many losses to the COVID-19 pandemic this year and live music may not the most important, but it certainly was one of the most deeply felt.

What was expected to be one of the biggest and busiest years ever was canceled, with the industry taking a $30 billion hit, according to the trade magazine Pollstar. Consider that this year's highest grosser, Elton John's "Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour," took in $87.1 million before things shut down in mid-March. By contrast, P!nk raked in $215.2 million the year before.

Live music did not disappear, however it just moved from physical venues to platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitch and Zoom and services such as Nugs.TV, Mandolin, Topeka Live, StageIt and others. Artist played from their homes and home studios, and as the weeks wore on became more creative in their presentations. It wasn't a perfect substitute, but the best helped fill a painful void.

Here then, are our very favorites from the past nine months.

Billie Joe Armstrong, "No Fun Mondays": Early on, the Green Day frontman took to his couch for a weekly series of cover songs that he gathered together for an album in November.

Verzuz TV, March to present: Producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz launched this service that's hosted "battles" between rappers such as Ludacris vs. Nelly and Young Jeezy vs. Gucci Mane, and singers such as Brandy vs. Monica, Babyface vs. Teddy Riley and more.

Fogerty's Factory, starting April 24: John Fogerty put together a "little family band" with songs Shane and Tyler and daughter Kelsy to record at-home versions of his Creedence Clearwater Revival and solo hits moving to Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium for a 75th birthday rendition of "Centerfield." The performances are preserved on an album that was released during November.

Dropkick Murphys live from Fenway Park, May 29: The Celtic punk troupe roared through full-length performance in the empty Boston baseball stadium, socially distanced and filled with vistas of the ballpark and the city and with a virtual guest appearance by Bruce Springsteen for two songs.

Jeff Daniels, Purple Rose Theatre benefits April 27-May 18: The Emmy Award winner and Tony Award nominee supported his COVID-closed theater in Chelsea, Mich., with a series of intimate weekly concerts, beautifully shot and mixed by sons Ben and Lucas. Daniels currently maintains a regular schedule of virtual concerts, including New Year's Eve shows, via jeffdaniels.com.

"Ringo's Big Birthday Show," July 7; and Tom Petty Birthday Bash, Oct. 23: Two rock icons turned 80 and 70 (posthumously), respectively, with a little help from their friends all-star lineups that saluted and celebrated the occasions. Starr, was, of course, around to join in the revelry, while the late Petty's Heartbreakers bandmates Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench played a hanky-worthy reunion at the band's HQ.

Detroit Jazz Festival, Sept. 4-7; and Concert of Colors, Oct. 6-11: Two of the Motor City's beloved annual events masked up and went on sans audience, for broadcast and virtual platforms. Kudos especially to the Jazz Fest, which streamed and aired live in real-time from soundstages at the Marriott Renaissance Center hotel.

Rufus Wainwright, "Rufus-Retro-Wainwright-Spective," Oct. 9-Nov. 27: Wainwright played his albums from the comfort of his living room, with special guests watching and conversing from the couch. The good news he's doing it again starting Jan. 8 via veeps.com.

Country Music Hall of Fame's "Big Night (At the Museum)," Oct. 28: An all-star cast (host Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Tim McGraw, Kane Brown and more) played songs on hallowed instruments from the shrine's collection, telling stories and basking in the gravity of history.

Puscifer, "Existential Reckoning," Oct. 30: Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan's other band set up camp at the Arcosanti experimental city in the Arizona desert for visuals that were as arresting as the music on its latest album.

Metallica, "All Within My Hands Concert and Auction," Nov. 14: The heavy-rock titans played acoustic and electric and mitigated the lack of audience by surrounding itself with large video screens so the band could see, play for and interact with the fans watching online for a more authentic concert experience than most livestreams.

Dua Lipa, "Studio 2054," Nov. 27: Whilst scooping up American Music Awards and Grammy nominations, the British songstress delivered an elaborately produced dance-pop extravaganza that proved so popular (more than 5 million viewers its first weekend) it was extended for another week.

Dave Grohl and Greg Kurstin, "The Hanukkah Sessions," Dec. 10-17: The Foo Fighters frontman and producer Kurstin lit up the eight nights by covering songs by Jewish artists, a diverse list that ranged from the Beastie Boys to Peaches, Bob Dylan and Lou Reed (via the Velvet Underground).

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Christmas Eve and Other Stories Live in Concert," Dec. 18: The "Wizards of Winter" dialed down the visual production a bit for this streaming presentation but still dazzled with an up-close look at the musicianship behind the annual holiday madness.

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