It’s very simple: we see many, these stuck out. Our top picks in no order are below, other than Leonard Cohen owning and deserving the very first slot. Honorable mentions go to Emiliana Torrini at Hiro Ballroom in March, Jarvis Cocker at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in July, Echo & the Bunnymen at Mercury Lounge in October, Wolfmother and Heartless Bastards at Terminal 5 in November, The Big Pink at Bowery Ballroom earlier this month, and anything that stars Murray Hill, the Pontani Sisters and Bridget Everett.

Leonard Cohen – Radio City Music Hall, May 16, 2009
“He will receive many standing ovations and whooping calls of professed love. He will smile in acknowledgement. This will be enough; he cannot enfold each of us. Although his words seem to. Nobody brings on the agony and the ecstasy quite like Leonard Cohen. …The incomparable words on spirituality, sexuality, political apocalypse, personal oblivion and salvation. Healing. Prayer. Nakedness. Betrayal. Murder. That is what I want to celebrate. And “celebrate” isn’t charged enough, or particularly honest enough, for how much I honor Cohen’s lyrical legacy.” –Carrie Alison

Nine Inch Nails – Terminal 5, August 26, 2009
The final date in New York City for Trent Reznor and crew’s final tour as NIN. While not a full, epic replay of The Downward Spiral, Broken or Pretty Hate Machine, it was a sweat-soaked, visceral, emotional night to wave goodbye to the industrial icon who just wanted to get married, get off the road and try something else for a change. –Carrie Alison


Elbow – All Points West Festival Day 3, August 2, 2009
“…a chill-inducing set of lush numbers, beautiful melodies and a burgeoning blue sky. Garvey, a master frontman and gifted lyricist, ingratiated himself quickly with genial interaction and his trademark wit, which was greatly displayed during the introduction for a hard-charging “Grounds for Divorce,” off of the award-winning Seldom Seen Kid, where he guided audience participation with double-devil horns because he’s “down with the kids.”  –Carrie Alison, Photo by Carrie Alison


We Are Enfant Terrible – The Delancey, October 22, 2009 (CMJ)
“We Are Enfant Terrible look as good as they sound. Fronted by the cool, statuesque Clo Floret, along with multi-faceted guitarist/keyboardist Thomas Fourny and precision drummer Cyril Debarge, who has ants in his pants and enough facial tics and absurd antics to make his own French farce, it’s almost impossible to look away for a second of their set. From the brash “Lobster Quadrille,” a standout from their EP Thanks for the Fish, to set closer, “Anything Less than Extraordinary is a Waste of My Time,” this band had the crowd collectively wowed.” – Madeline Virbasius-Walsh, Photo by Tear-n Tan


Mumford & Sons – Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 22, 2009 (CMJ)
“The shocking, utterly devastating brilliance of these O Brother, Where Are Thou?-esque bluegrass badasses was, from first blush and foot stomp to the last joyful harmony, an undeniable, unimaginable victory. A performance like this is what makes CMJ worth powering through. To witness that much authentic soul, passion and genuine mastery was a blessing after days and nights wandering from venue to venue looking for an act to make all of this make sense.” –Carrie Alison, Photo by Carrie Alison


Atlas Sound – Le Poisson Rouge, October 20, 2009 (CMJ)
“Painfully intimate, shockingly haunting and displaying the sort of delicate grace that is far too rare among such buzzed-about acts (save for perhaps the beloved Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver, or, to a degree, Elbow), Cox killed with quietude, dreamy folk-pop and gentlemanly kindness.” –Carrie Alison, Photo by Carrie Alison

The Dead Weather and Screaming Females – Terminal 5, July 16, 2009
“Caustic trio Screaming Females of New Brunswick, New Jersey, opened and kicked out the jams with quick and dirty punk songs, and hard-charging axe work from a little dynamo called Marissa Paternoster, who, just in her early twenties is so frighteningly precise and outrageously talented, that everyone should write down her name in pen immediately and get on line now. The chemistry between White, Mosshart, Dean Fertita (of Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (of the Raconteurs) is undeniable. At times it was explosive, and potentially overreaching; but for most of their balls-out performance, it was utterly thrilling.” –Carrie Alison

Morrissey – Webster Hall, March 25, 2009
“The vicious-witted Brit and his band stood out as one of the most startlingly talented groups of musicians I’ve seen in years, using everything from timpani drums to a giant gong and paper airplanes to turn this performance into the show of shows. Upon laying into the first song of the evening, The Smiths’ “This Charming Man,” the hair stood up on the back of my neck.” –Madeline Virbasius-Walsh

The Kills and The Horrors – Webster Hall, May 2, 2009
The last New York stop for a year that saw the Kills’ wild ride on a Midnight Boom took them far and wide and deep into Gossip Girl. Months later, Alison Mosshart would front The Dead Weather with someone named Jack White, and blow the pants off of Jimmy Fallon on his own television show. But back in May, the rest of us who have been at her feet since she and fellow Kills mate Jamie Hince purred about a “Dead Road” and getting some “Kissy Kissy” were still ours, save for the odd supermodel in the crowd and backstage antics with beat-maestro alien BP Fallon. The Horrors hid behind their usual smoke and dour, Joy Division moodiness, but natty frontman Faris Badwan, in his Nirvana “Bleach” shirt, took it all in stride and even seemed to enjoy himself. The screams of newly obsessed fans will do that to you. –Carrie Alison


Coldplay – All Points West Festival Day 3, August 2, 2009
“Improbably Coldplay, who would have drawn a large crowd anyway, but given the conditions of the festival site, the exhausted crowd and the long trek to an understated MGMT on the Bullet Stage, it was indeed Chris Martin and his colored revolution jacket and brothers in anthem who commanded the night with a triumphant set that proved to be the perfect antidote for a crowd who was ready to throw their hands up and sing with abandon…” –Carrie Alison, Photo by Carrie Alison

–Compiled by Carrie Alison, Senior Editor