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On the Beat: Reflections on 2014
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On the Beat: Reflections on 2014

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Paul McCartney came to Lincoln for the first time and delivered a three-hour, never-took-a-drink performance at Pinnacle Bank Arena that might just have been the best concert in Lincoln ever.

Pershing Center got rocked by ZZ Top, then a few months later the Goo Goo Dolls played the last concert in the old city auditorium, which closed for good at the end of August.

Pinewood Bowl had another strong series of shows, highlighted by a fun, improved night from Ben Folds on his piano.

And there’s never been more music in Capital City clubs than there was in Lincoln this year, with Vega added to the mix of venues and bringing in artists like Sondre Lerche, Rival Sons, with Lincoln native Dave Beste, and Matthew Sweet, another Lincoln native.

That’s a quick overview of Lincoln’s live music scene in 2014 -- a year that, without question, featured the most concerts in the most venues in the city’s history.

The shows that garnered the most attention were, of course, at PBA, which, in its first full year of operation, proved to be one of the country’s top concert venues.

That’s not just a technical/concert operations judgment -- PBA has a great reputation in the concert industry on that front. It’s also because the shows there have been strongly attended, with lots of sellouts and for James Taylor and Jake Owen, the largest audiences they had on their respective tours.

As arena manager Tom Lorenz has repeatedly said, if people continue to turn out for arena shows, the big concerts will continue to come to Lincoln.

The local music scene continued to thrive as well. Showcased in festivals, the Lincoln-only Lincoln Exposed and the broader but still Lincoln-centric Lincoln Calling, Lincoln’s bands and solo artists continue to impress -- and to cover a full range of genres, from hip-hop and dance music to country, rock and metal.

My best measure for music here has nothing to do with Lincoln. It’s the number of trips outside of town, primarily to Omaha, that I take to see shows. Over the last five years, that number has gone steadily downward. In 2014, it’s been reduced to less than once a month. There’s too much that needs to be seen here.

Lincoln has, indeed, become a music city.

The McCartney concert topped my list of arena shows. The rest of my top concerts list for the year is divided by venue and is in some kind of order. But it’s hard to compare say, Nas, Johnny Winter, Blitzen Trapper and J.D. McPherson -- all of whom played the Bourbon Theatre this year.

The only Lincoln concert that got national attention was one I, thankfully, missed. I’ve never had much use for the whining Morrissey, who, after hearing something he thought was an insult from the audience, left the Rococo Theatre stage in a huff, then moaned about it. On Twitter, Morrissey claimed he’ll never come back to Lincoln. Fine by me. Please stay away.

As far as albums go, my list is deliberately titled “favorite” and not a best of. With the explosion of album releases spawned by digital recording and distribution, it’s impossible for any single person to listen to even a 10th of the available albums -- or for a staff of a magazine or online publication to do a comprehensive survey.

So calling something “best of” is arrogant and an overstatement. I go with favorite and base the list to a large degree on the records I’ve listened to most over the course of the year.

Topping my favorites list is “Snapshot” by the Strypes. I saw the young Irish band, which has some members still in their teens, at South By Southwest in Austin, where it felt like I was seeing the young Rolling Stones.

That same energy and revved up blues fill “Snapshot,” which I listened to repeatedly for weeks after the show and still “spin” regularly.

My guess is you won’t see “Snapshot” on many, or perhaps any, other list, particularly those that claim to be “best of.” Rock ‘n' roll isn’t popular with critics these days. That’s their loss.

The No. 2 album on my list is D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s “Black Messiah,” an R&B masterpiece that was a surprise release a couple of weeks ago. You won’t see that one on many other lists, either -- that’s because the vast majority of those were compiled and released in early December. Oops.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.

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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott, the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award, has written about arts and entertainment for Lincoln newspapers since 1985, reviewing thousands of movies and concerts and hundreds of art exhibitions.

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