A look back at the best Triad shows of 2010

by Ryan Snyder

Jay-Z, Greensboro Coliseum, Feb. 28

As one of only a handful of rappers capable of packing an arena, the don of them all puts on a better concert than any of his peers. He can command a stage as well as any artist of any genre, doesn’t resort to the parlor tricks of, say, a Lil Wayne, and his catalog holds up far better over the

course of two hours than Eminem. While it gets fairly easy to sniff out canned stage banter after a while, HOVA’s every aside felt warm and genuine. His large backing band aside, no part of his stage show felt ostentatious. No backing vocals and no swarms of coattailing rappers flooding the set, just Jay-Z with Memphis Bleek providing sparse support, running through one of the greatest catalogs in hip hop.

Mavis Staples, Hanesbrands Theatre, Oct. 2


A performance by a legendary soul singer for the opening of a crisp, new theater should be a recipe for a packed house, no? Not necessarily. Few area live shows in 2010 were as criminally under-attended as the legendary Mavis Staples’ performance to christen the Hanesbrand Theatre at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Performing Arts. For those who were there, however, it wasn’t such a bad thing. Open seating in the dark, intimate venue created what was essentially a living room performance. Staples carried on conversations with audience members about local fare — “That soul food lady broke me down,” she said, referring to the co-proprietor of Sweet Potatoes — before breaking the audience down with powerful renditions of “I’ll Take You There” and “The Weight.”

Joe Krown Trio, Triad Stage, July 30

One of the most unsung of all the great New Orleans players, seeing Joe Krown with his trio on the road is far cheaper than taking a trip to the Big Easy to catch his residency at the Maple Leaf, even if the crawfish boil isn’t included. As great an organist as Krown is though, he’s probably matched in ability and surpassed in charisma by his compatriots, guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington and drummer Russell Batiste Jr. Their set at the Triad Stage as a part of the EMFfringe series over the summer was pure chemistry; Krown was the cog on which the Trio’s wheel spun, and it took the crowd through every corner of NOLA musical lore.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation, the Blind Tiger, June 1


Not quite the traditionalist that Krown is, “Big Sam” Williams is at the forefront of the next wave of New Orleans greats nonetheless. Big Sam’s Funky Nation’s June 1 show at The Blind Tiger was then thought to be one of the venue’s last big shows — before its lease was extended indefinitely, that is. More raw, rump-shaking funk than nuanced Canal Street fare, Big Sam brought on several local talents Walter Fancourt, Evan Frierson and Lynn Grissett Jr. to share the stage in the midst of covers of “Hang Up Your Hang Ups” and “Living For the Love of You.”

Tobacco, Artistika, Sept. 29

While the existence of pterodactyl porn is disturbing enough by itself, that electronic musician Tobacco includes a mildly censored clip of it — three gents in dino-bird suits lethargically flapping their wings as they’re serviced by a naked woman — as eye candy for his live set, is somehow not all that surprising. The Black Moth Super Rainbow front man is a pretty weird fellow, no doubt, and participants in his free show at Artistika probably left with a deep-seated sense of dread in regards to their stake in the afterlife. The music though — waves of grimy ‘80s synth beats and creepy, vocoderized incantations — was heavenly.

Greensboro Fest, various, Sept. 23-26

With so many tough choices to be made over the course of Greensboro Fests four days, there was no wrong way to experience it—save for not attending, of course.

From the bubblegum electro of the Sugar High Gang on opening night, to the red light soaked hip-hop revue of Saturday, to the epic noise of the Bronzed Chorus on a rainy Sunday, the largely free festival was an intro, intermediate and master’s level schooling on local music. The off-the-beaten path venues, bands you’ve never heard of, and the endearing personalities were all represented, making it nearly impossible to choose just one moment that stood out among the rest.